MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
A woman’s menstrual health is crucial to her well-being and also to the well-being of her family and community. But often, mindsets, customs and institutional biases prevent women from getting the menstrual health care they need. Menstrual hygiene continues to be amongst the most challenging development issues today. Menstruation is associated with the onset of puberty in girls and many a times, it brings with it rules, restrictions, isolation and changed expectations from the girls by the society. This changed attitude towards girls such as restrictions on their self expressions, schooling, mobility and freedom has far reaching consequences on the mindset of women.
Menstruation is still considered a taboo in the Indian society. Even today, the cultural and social influences on people create a major hurdle in ensuring that the adolescent girls are given proper knowledge on menstrual hygiene. Mothers are also reluctant to talk about this topic with their daughters and many of them lack scientific knowledge on puberty and menstruation. The main reasons for this taboo still being relevant in the Indian society are high rate of illiteracy especially in girls, poverty and lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. Only less than 18 per cent of Indian women use sanitary pads.
In some families, menstruation is being perceived as an unclean or embarrassing thing, extending even to the mention of menstruation both in public and in private. Most girls even hide themselves out of fear or embarrassment and a majority of them cannot afford to buy hygienic sanitary pads. A large number of girls in many less economically stable families drop out of school when they begin menstruating. More than 77 per cent of menstruating girls and women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused, ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand during periods.
During their menstruating days, women are prohibited from participating in day-to-day activities. She is prohibited to enter the kitchen or a temple as people believe that anything she touches will go bad or rot. But the truth is that a menstruating woman is going through a natural and healthy biological process.
The objective of this project is to create awareness on the issue of menstrual health and hygiene and so also promote the use of sanitary napkins among adolescent girls and young women. The awareness sessions provide them with the know-how on how to handle menstruation, improve knowledge of personal hygiene and boost confidence by answering unanswered questions through interactive and engaging training methods.
The period under discussion saw a total of 65 adolescent girls and women participate in the awareness meetings that were conducted.