In India, young girls are often told to hide sanitary pads in a black polythene or a thick paper bag. Almost every teenage girl has gone and is going through this. A saddening fact is that around 50% of girls in India have little or no knowledge of menstruation before their first period and around 88% girls and women who menstruate use unsafe materials.
The percentage of Indian girls living in urban and rural areas who are unaware about menstrual hygiene are 36% and 47%, respectively. It is still fogged by stigmas, taboos and socio-cultural limitations, resulting in girls remaining ignorant of healthy menstrual practices, which further result in adverse health problems. All over the world, the disposal of sanitary waste has been a very common problem. Especially in India the used napkins are thrown into washroom dustbins or are flushed into the drains as it leads to embarrassing visuals and smells. In June 2010, the Government of India proposed a new scheme towards menstrual hygiene by a provision of subsidized sanitary napkins to rural adolescent girls. But there are various other issues like awareness, availability, quality of napkins, regular supply, privacy, water supply, disposal of napkins, reproductive health education and family support which needs simultaneous attention for promotion of menstrual hygiene.
Based on a Community-based cross-sectional observational study at a girls’ hostel which has 1 building and around 1000 girls reside in the hostel.
OBSERVATIONS that were made were,
Out of 1000 participants, mother was the first informant regarding menstrual hygiene and sanitary disposal in case of 87% girls. Other sources of information were friends and relatives in case of 9% girls and 2% girls, respectively.
Regarding disposal, 81% disposed the used sanitary napkins in a safe and acceptable way.
Girls not washing hands and external genitalia using soap and water are 21%.
Girls who had genital infections as a result of unsafe hygiene during menstruation are 32%.
Participants who admitted that sanitary hygiene is a must are 94%.
The need of safe sanitary waste disposal units and law in the country was felt by 62%.
CONCLUSION based on the research was,
A silent epidemic spreads every year, affecting thousands of girls and washroom waste collectors on exposure to such offensive sanitary waste. This can be prevented by educational media, trained school nurses/health personnel, motivated school and college teachers, awareness programmes, compulsory sex education, and knowledgeable parents. Hygiene-related practices of women during menstruation are of considerable importance, as it has a health impact in terms of increased vulnerability to reproductive tract infections (RTI) and urinary tract infections (UTI). For this, proper policies should be made and laws should be imposed, which should be a part of overall health and community development policy. India lacks discreet and safe disposal systems for sanitary wastes whereas UK has specific laws and proper system for the same.
- There is a definite need for a national level survey involving rural, urban and tribal population from different socio economic classes.
- Surveys focussing on sensitive issues like financing, affordability, religious and cultural issues, etc. must be conducted.
- All mothers irrespective of their educational status should be taught to break their inhibitions about discussing with their daughters regarding menstruation much before the age of menarche.
Discretion of waste at the first step: Sanitary pads should be sold along with disposable bags that are made by women, for women and to protect the women. If each pad is wrapped in an identifiable pouch, waste collectors won’t even have to open it. This will allow for easy identification and handling of such waste.
- Sanitary Disposal System: Sanitary bins that will allow for safe disposal of sanitary waste items in washroom, such as tampons and sanitary pads; containing granules- an anti-bacterial agent and powerful sterilising vapour which will destroy infectious germs and eliminate unpleasant odours.
- Hands-free, pedal operation will ensure hygiene by minimizing contact.
- Biocide will ensure safe storage of waste and will keep bins fresh between services. This will also reduce plumbing problems.
- Enforcement of Sanitary laws.