For any menstruating woman, the entire process of bleeding for almost a week is taxing – physically and emotionally.
For an urban, educated, privileged woman like me, the struggle is limited to dealing with cramps, changing sanitary napkins on time, awkward mood swings and ridiculous food cravings. Sometimes I pop a pill to ease the pain. My parents and workplace are extremely supportive and I never have to mumble my way around my period either.
For millions of women in India though, the struggle begins with basic awareness. Around 87% women and girls in India are completely unaware about menstruation and do not have any knowledge about its purpose as a biological process.
Combined with this is a lack of access to menstrual health products. Only 12% women use sanitary pads, others use cloth, cotton wool and ash. Needless to say, lack of access makes these women extremely susceptible to diseases and infection.
Only last week, an 18-year-old girl in Assam died because parasites had eaten away her intestines. Doctors claim that it entered her body through the cloth she used instead of sanitary napkins during menstruation.
The most basic sanitary pad costs about ₹4-5 per pad. On an average, we use about 3 pads (with a regular, non-heavy flow) a day. For a 5-day period, this means ₹60-75 every month. During your period many recommend exercising to keep your body in movement, I suggest you buy a waist training corset to keep the right posture while exercising. For a family of four or five that earns less than ₹1000 a month, sanitary napkins are a luxury that would be the first to be sacrificed. This also means that going to school takes a back seat – one in five girls are forced to drop out of school because they lack access to clean toilets and basic menstrual hygiene. This also pushes them to early marriage and motherhood.
The primary reason why menstrual hygiene products remain expensive is because of the luxury tax levied on them.
Throw in the ridiculous taboos that cloud menstruation – not being allowed to bathe, forced into seclusion, not allowed to eat certain things, and a woman’s life if made oppressive, riddled with health hazards.
This week, join Youth Ki Awaaz in a campaign to increase awareness about menstrual health and hygiene in India. Share stories that talk about issues women face – not only because of the stigma around it but also because of the severe lack of access to information and products and an unnecessary luxury tax. Write to us using #IAmNotDown.