#Period Paath: Menstruation – Making It Healthy And Sustainable

Editor’s Note: This post is an entry for the #Periodपाठ writing contest, a unique opportunity for you to write a letter and stand a chance of winning up to ₹30,000! The contest is organised by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC. Find out more here and submit your entry!

To.

THE MINISTER  FOR HEALTH &FAMILY WELFARE, Tamil Nadu

CC: The Commissioner, Erode City Municipal corporation.

Sub: Menstruation _ Suggestions for making it healthy & sustainable.

 

Respected Sir/ Madam

I would like to bring to your kind attention the issue regarding Menstrual health, hygiene & disposal. Menstruation is a natural process. But this natural process has been tabooed, twisted & hyped too much that it becomes a matter of concern to women and the environment. Disposable pads are not bio-degradable & are a combination of plastic-based materials like polythene, polypropylene. It contains a host of chemicals & hazardous ingredients like chlorine-bleached wood pulp, polyacrylate super-absorbent gel, fragrance preserved with parabens. The vaginal skin is uniquely and highly sensitive. So what we put in and on the vagina can affect overall health.

Exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer, reproductive harm, allergic rashes & prolonged use of these pads can cause a yeast infection, leading to toxic shock syndrome.  As an Ambassador for Ecofemme (Enterprise that sells cloth pad) when I am reaching out to young girls and women I found that they are not aware of these details, as there is no requirement on to the manufacturers to disclose the presence of chemicals used in these products. It is a startling fact, that a detail concerning sanitary pads, a necessity for womanhood, is kept obscure, as women do not have information as to what their pad is made off. This poses a threat to their health.

Coming to the issue of disposal, these pads are often disposed of as thrash in waste bins or flushed in toilets. This “not so proper method of disposing” cause a health threat to thrash collectors, sewage worker, and stray animals. The average disposable pad contains 4 carry bags worth of plastic. So they end up as landfill, affecting the quality of the environment. Tamil Nadu government’s decision to install incinerators in government schools is a welcome move, as the used pads are now burned. But caution has to be taken concerning the emission from these incinerators. When pads are burnt, deadly toxins like dioxins & furan are released into the atmosphere that can affect the health.

The stigma around menstruation & lack of knowledge about healthy practices poses a hardship for physical &mentally challenged, deaf & visually impaired women. Menstruation is often perceived as a burden by their family &care takers eventually ending in the decision of removing the uterus. Helping these disabled women to understand this natural process and telling them how to manage their period will be a dignified and sustainable move. I kindly request your consideration to make the tactile book & video on menstrual hygiene management developed by WSSCC (Source: The Hindu)to be made available in the schools that cater to this category. Teachers & caretakers of these girls should also be sensitized on this issue.

Based on my experience in promoting healthy and sustainable menstruation, I would kindly like to make the following suggestion:

1)Ease & convenience seems to be the key factor in the selection of menstrual product disposable methods. Allocating separate bin, ”pink bin” for collecting napkins, tampons will help in easy disposal, segregating and managing the menstrual waste.

2)WHO recommends incinerating all health-related waste only at a temperature over 800 degrees(Source: Ecofemme) Hence declaring sanitary waste as biomedical waste which can then be incinerated in registered &approved incinerators will enhance the safety.

3)Legislation requiring sanitary pad manufacturers to fully disclose information regarding ingredients used. As a part of CSR, these companies can involve in creating awareness of the safe use & disposal of the pads.

4)Menstrual health, hygiene & management, be made compulsory in the school curriculum. This not only educates but also sensitize the young & future generation, remove the stigma & superstition that cloud menstruation & bring in dignity.

5) Promote & create awareness about alternate solutions like reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, degradable pads. My most remarkable observation as a cloth pad ambassador is that when given information and choice many young girls & women choose the solution that is not only good for them but also the environment. To create awareness, spread the information, give them a choice & let them take a decision.

A holistic approach to a problem can give a sustainable solution. Today we are moving towards the smart city, that provides a  smart solution. Making a smart choice is imperative & let the government be the vanguard.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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