Menstruation is a biological cycle. Hygiene and care during the menstrual cycle is a critical aspect, which needs to be addressed both in rural and urban areas.
As a student having an MBA in Hospital and Healthcare Management, I carried out a study on menstruation and hygiene in Devaryamjal village, Shamirpet Mandal, Ranga Reddy district in May 2018 through a questionnaire. It included questions on awareness about menstruation, taboos, menstrual regime and disposal methods.
According to the study, 38% of women in the area continue to use cloth. Out of this, 70% reuse the cloth after a wash, while the remaining 30% dispose of it. The study also made it evident that 24% of the women using cloth are literate, and that half of them reuse the cloth after a wash. It was also observed that many awareness programs have been conducted here – and with the efforts of some non-governmental oganisations (NGOs), sanitary napkins have been provided to women both in the urban and rural areas.
Some of the observations drawn from the study are as follows:
1. Illiterate women are hesitant to speak about menstruation.
2. Some of the women fear the effects of using sanitary napkins.
3. The women are habituated to use cloth, despite having knowledge about sanitary napkins.
4. 5% of the illiterate women are isolated during menstruation.
5. Most of them restrict food habits during their menstrual cycle.
6. Many of them do not like to buy sanitary napkins if there is a male shopkeeper.
7. No practice of healthy disposal methods like using incinerators, pit burial etc.
8. No use of silicon menstrual cups.
Periods may be inconvenient for many women. But, what’s more inconvenient and unhealthy is the improper disposal of soiled sanitary napkins. With increased awareness on the use of sanitary napkins and the government’s proposal to provide menstrual kits to girls, it is likely that there will be some improvement in people’s use of sanitary napkins.
At the same time, there is also a need to focus on the management of sanitary waste. One of the major issues of sanitary waste management is the categorisation, collection and disposal of the waste. Women, both in rural and urban areas, face these problems every month. While some wrap the items in plastic or paper and throw it along with the domestic waste, others flush them down or throw them into water bodies.
According to a report, a woman throws away about 150 kilograms of mostly non-biodegradable absorbents each year. Another article shows how many people falsely believe that these sanitary products are only made of cotton. The products have a significant plastic content with super-absorbent polymers and non-woven plastic components that make it extremely difficult to dispose of them. These products also pose health hazards due to the chemical contents (dioxin, furan, pesticides and other endocrine disruptors) which are transferred between the soil, water, and air.
1. Menstrual cups are safer alternatives to sanitary napkins and tampons.
2. Using biodegradable/reusable cloth pads. They have a waterproof lining which prevents any form of leakage on to the clothes. This eliminates the possibility of chemical products harming women.
3. Installing incinerators at schools, colleges, universities and having separate dustbins for sanitary waste. The person concerned for collection and disposal should be trained to manage the job effectively.
4. Establishment and maintenance of sanitary vending machines for biodegradable cloth pads for free at various places. This would save women from the trouble of having to go to shops.
1. Fear of using silicon menstrual cups and lack of awareness about its use.
2. Changing the mindset of women regarding menstruation and the use of separate dustbins and incinerators.
3. The disadvantage with cloth pads is that they need to be washed regularly.
4. Finding the appropriate places to set up vending machines where women can go and take the pads. The machines also need to be maintained regularly.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.