By Anwesha Bose:
In India women have progressed, rising from the darkness of social confinement, they are now walking head to head in this prejudiced society. However, even amidst this encouraging picture a very grim reality has recently emerged. Women’s hygiene and sanitation concerns have worsened, even in these times of medical progress.
According to latest reports in a leading daily, only 12% of menstruating women use Sanitary Napkins. Thus, the remaining 88% use home-grown shocking alternatives like husk sand, unsanitised cloth and ashes.
A study conducted by AC Neilsen called “Sanitation protection: Every Women’s Health Right”, provides in depth analysis of the prevalent unhygienic practices and their effect on women’s health. The survey covers 1033 women in the menstrual age and 151 gynaecologists who studied them. Reviewed and endorsed by community development organisationÂ Plan India, the survey was conducted in October 2010. (source)
Statistics from this survey says that Inadequate protection during the days of the menstrual cycle leads to adolescent girls in the (age group 12-18years) miss 5 days of school in a month (50 days annually). 23% of girls drop out of school after they start menstruating. Due to such grossly practices, over 70% of the women have some kind of Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) in their lifetime.
A reproductive disease of any kind impairs the ability to reproduce. In females the infection can affect, either the upper reproductive tract like fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus or the lower reproductive tract like vagina, cervix and vulva. Leading experts say that use of Sanitary napkins can actually reduce the risk of acquiring RTI’s.
Menstrual hygiene is lowest in eastern India with 83% women saying their families can’t afford SNs.Â Thus, affordability of such protective measures becomes a big question. The Union Health Ministry is finally waking up to the need of immediate actions required in this field. In June 2010, the ministry had announced Rs 150 Crore scheme to increase the availability and use of Napkins among adolescent girls in rural areas. (source)
The scheme envisages supplying a pack of six SNs to Below Poverty Line (BPL) girls at a nominal cost of Rs 1 per pack. Girls in the Above Poverty Line (APL) category will be charged Rs 5 per pack of sanitary napkins.
However like many such government ‘plans’ this one too, is yet to kick off.Â According to statistics available with UNICEF – for the period 2003-08, the maternal mortality rate in India is almost 250 deaths/1000 females. India’s rank is 127th in the world, just above Pakistan and below Nepal.Â This figure is still very high as compared to the global standards.
Though many detractors say that such statistical representation are nothing but lies, but whatever maybe the truth, these numbers point to a dismal picture. Health of a mother is of great importance as it directly affects that of the baby. If the mother is unhealthy, the baby is often born with disorders beyond medical cure. It is a vicious cycle in which both, the new born and the mother suffers. Improvement in hygiene is essential for a safer future. Only increasing female literacy rates cannot be considered as the criteria for indicating growth but, improvement in health and hygiene among the female accounts significantly.
All we need to do is extend our support to needy girls and women. Educate them about the need to use protective aids like Sanitary napkins and boycott the use of atrocious methods.
To quote Buddha, “Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering – an image of death.” Keeping that in mind, we wouldn’t want our mothers, sisters and daughters to suffer and feel victimised.