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On The First Ever World Menstrual Hygiene Day, Here Are 4 Extremely Important Things You Should Know

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By Dr. Anubha Dhal:

To raise awareness on serious social issues, international community dedicates special days that are observed all around the world. Yet some tabooed subjects that have great impact on public life remain ignored.

To break one such taboo, a coalition of international and national organisations will observe the first-ever Menstrual Hygiene Day today (May 28). Menstrual Hygiene Day brings together the polyphonic voices of adolescent girls and women across the globe by providing them a platform to demystify the myths and taboos surrounding ‘menstruation’. The day is dedicated to generating awareness about the pivotal issue of menarche; an important benchmark of the biological and anatomic process of puberty. This day can be used as a platform to unravel the stigma and silences around menstruation and spread positive knowledge about good menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Menstrual Hygiene is central to:


Right to Education:I hate menstruation because I have to miss school during those days and I love my school. There are no facilities where I can change and dispose menstrual waste which is why my mother always makes me stay home.’ Kishori from Bettiah, India.

Huge percentage of adolescent girls drop out from schools because of improper menstrual hygiene education, lack of proper sanitation and safe water, poor access to sanitary napkins, poor infrastructure (private toilets, disposable bins). 6 out of 10 schools have functioning toilet facilities[1]. 68.73% of schools in India have separate toilets for girls[2]. 23% schools in Delhi, 12 % schools in Rajasthan and 39% schools in Maharashtra are without separate girls’ toilets[3].

Facilities/Provisions: Educating adolescent girls, teachers and parent community about the inevitable, necessary biological steps is the first step towards Menstrual Hygiene Management. The Department of Women and Child Development has institutionalized ‘Kishori Shakti Yojna’ (earlier called Adolescent Girls scheme) a component of ICDS scheme, which commenced from 28th November, 2011. The scheme aims to improve the nutrition and health status of adolescent girls between the age group 11-18. They distribute free sanitary napkins to over 7.50 lakh female students enrolled in the 729 government and government aided schools across Delhi. The School Health Scheme under the Chacha Nehru Sehat Yojna, New Delhi provides iron supplementation to all the students (including girls) under the flagship Weekly Iron Folic and Acid Supplementation Program to help maintain their haemoglobin levels. The program has reached out to over 3 lakh students in Central Delhi.

In addition there should be health talks for both parent and teacher community educating them about the basics of menstruation, for instance: What is Menstruation? When does it happen? Why does it happen? Why is maintaining ‘menstrual hygiene’ important? What are the myths/taboos surrounding menstruation?

Ensuring Women’s Health: Poor Menstrual Hygiene and lack of menstrual knowledge leads to poor physical health ( fungal infections, anaemia, and cervical cancer), social health ( seclusion, notions of impurity) and mental health ( low self- esteem, depression). In addition, it induces stress, fear, and shame. In urban India, 43-88% of girls use reusable cloth, yet they are often washed without soap or clean water[4]. In addition, incorrect method of disposing the sanitary napkins may cause clogged toilets leading to a breakdown of sanitation system increasing the maintenance costs.

Right to Economic Equity: Lack of adequate private toilets, safe running water, and disposable bins among others prevents the parents from sending their girl child to school during her ‘period’, resulting in absenteeism and eventually school drop-outs, affecting the educational qualifications of the girl child. Dropping out from school, denies women the right to education and pushes them back from being economically independent. The lack of poor quality of toilets, availability of water and disposal options further relegates women into the private domestic sphere perpetuating the patriarchal society.

Human Right to Life: Women become the target of gender inequality as they are unable to complete their education, as they are advised to drop out from schools by parents (due to lack of private toilets). The stigma around menstruation and its hygiene inhibits the girl child to lead a life of and with dignity. The constant shame and fear adds to her trauma, leading her to have low self-esteem.

Facilities/Provisions: Health talks on hygiene need to be conducted for girls within the school premises by teachers or health workers. The policy of free sanitary napkins exists, but if the girl is not made aware of how to use and dispose the product, the policy stands ineffective. In addition, more separate toilets for girls needs to be constructed.

There is a massive gap between the various policies and their on-ground implementation. It is of utmost importance that stronger linkages be made between the health and education departments on sensitizing students, parent and teacher community about menstruation hygiene. In addition there needs to be a synergy between the municipal corporation and the respective schools in various states of India.

[1] District Information System for Education, 2009-2010, National University of Education Planning and Administration, New Delhi.
[2] District Information System for Education, 2011-2012, National University of Education Planning and Administration, New Delhi.
[3] District Information System Education, 2010-2011, National University of Education Planning and Administration , New Delhi.
[4] Dasgupta and Sarkar. ‘Menstrual Hygiene : How hygienic is the adolescent girl?’, 2008.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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