The stigma and silence around menstruation builds up the negligence of the issues like period poverty and female hygiene. In India only 12% of women are exposed to the period products and rest 88% use cloth, rags, hay, leaves, sand and ash, according to the report of Indian ministry of health. More than half of menstruators put their bodies to risk of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), bacterial vaginosis with skin irritation and vaginal itching.
Dr Swati Sinha, Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital by profession explained on social platform about importance of menstrual hygiene, “One should be taking bath regularly and should continue with their usual routine. They should make sure to change their pads at frequent interval say four to six hours at least, depending upon the flow of course. And if one is using tampons then one has to be careful to remember and change it regularly. Washing yourself once a day at least with soap, and sanitary washes whichever is available that can be used. Use clean and fresh pads because using the same soiled pad for long period of time does make one feel more disposed to infections of the vagina and Urinary Tract.“
Female menstruation and hygiene are a worldwide problem that needs to be regularly and openly discussed about. And Scotland became the first country to bring this initiative under the law by providing free sanitary pads to women of all ages and set an example globally for all other countries who are still struggling in this sector. Meanwhile people are appreciating the decision taken by Scotland on social media platforms, there are girls like Manisha, who are unknown with the fact of such necessity in a women’s life and are completely deprived of basic period products that affects their other curricular activities.
There are lot of people working in this area, doing campaigns to spread awareness and educate about menstrual hygiene and period products. One such group is “Green the Red“ formed in 2016. It is a PAN India collective of educators, activists, organizations, working to create awareness about sustainable menstrual products and practices. Green the Red told Eat News, “India already has many schemes and organizations providing free disposable pads. India is a diverse country and we believe that choices of menstruators should be considered. In India, cloth is still used. According to NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey), around 58% menstruators use disposable products already and others maybe using cloth, cloth pads or menstrual cups.“
Another organization called “Muse Foundation“ is also working on menstrual health management apart from other issues. The group also started a unique initiative named Maasika Mahotsav (Menstruation festival) in 2017 that is the country’s first and only period festival conducted between 21st to 28th May every year across different states with a focus to eliminate period taboos. Nishant Bangera, founder of Muse Foundation said, “We wholeheartedly appreciate Scotland government’s decision. It is a historic and progressive step taken by Scotland to act upon their commitment to work on period poverty in the country. It has definitely set a precedent for rest of the countries to follow. Another extremely significant aspect about the decision about it being product-inclusive.“
UN’s report published last year presented, 28% of the Indian population is poor which explains approximately 364 million people. Poverty has made tough for people to have access to basic necessities that includes education, food, shelter, hygiene and sanitation. He told Eat News, in a city level (Thane) survey conducted by their foundation in last year, revealed some eye-opening facts that over 46% of women in Thane changed their menstrual products (predominantly) pads only once in 12 hours. In addition, 67% of the women in the slum areas had no toilet inside their homes. “While to historically help menstruators manage periods, one must give access to clean toilet, water, safe disposal provisions and safe space, the bare minimum that Indian government could do is make all the period products free for menstruators’, said Nishant. For further addition he said, ‘India has a robust network of primary health care centers along with several community level government centers that can be leveraged upon for effective distribution.“
As per the research firm in India, Nielsen evaluates, at least 23% girls drop out of school due to various reasons during menstruation. Girls from rural areas have to drop out from schools or have to compromise with menstrual hygiene due to unavailability of resources. “The reason is not only unavailability of period products but also inaccessibility to clean and safe toilets, minimal awareness about menstruation, unaffordable period products and period cramps. Only making period products free will not have a substantial effect on the attendance. Government have to look after to multilateral interventions i.e. giving access to clean and safe toilet, including menstrual health management in the curriculum, free period products and free access to doctors/healthcare.“
Menstruation festival is an annual festival that has been celebrated in over 10+ states since it is started. It tackles the discrimination, taboos and systematic suppression on menstruators through sports, arts and cultural programs. It is celebrated in tribal, rural and urban areas through the help of our partners and government departments, thus reaching menstruators far and wide.
This clearly indicates, along with period poverty, issues like non accessibility to basic requirements of toilets, water, menstrual health management are some of the key points that makes a female to compromise her hygiene.
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