#PeriodPaath: No Compromise To Dignity And Education: A Parlance of Menstruators

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To,

The Block Development Officer,

Kishangarh, Ajmer

 

Subject: To seek provision of menstrual hygiene facilities in my community.

Respected Sir/mam,

I am a menstrual researcher working in your block’s communities; the girls of this community are having several issues related to menstrual hygiene management that is articulated in my study conducted in the year 2017, I have discussed a few instances in following portion of this letter. Based on my scientific observation i would request you to grant funding and resources in order to facilitate better MHM among the young girls and women. For your comprehensive understanding i anticipate to provide a context of this seminal issue.

Context:

“When the first time I bled I thought something wrong has happened to me and soon I am going to die.” In the absence of prior knowledge about menstruation these are the words of 14 years old girl participated in my study on menstrual attitude among adolescent girls conducted in a small village ‘Nohariya’ of Ajmer district of Rajasthan state. Another girl in the same study says “Although, I have toilet in my home but my friends do not have it in their home thus I like to go to farm for defecation and we enjoy it”. Families of this village rarely have constructed toilets consequently, girls and women go to farm for defecation. During periods chances to catching infection turn out to be multiple if girl go out for open defecation. In addition to this, respected sir/mam, remarking is vital that Ajmer district has been declared as an open defecation free (ODF) in the year 2017. This difference between ground situation and government data goes without saying.

India has about 355 million menstruating women and girls which is 30% of the total population. Though, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (GoI) launched menstrual hygiene scheme for the promotion of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls (10-19 years) in rural areas in 2011, But like others schemes this one is also bearing various setbacks. A study by the ministry of health claims, only 12% of women and girls have access to sanitary napkins in India while a majority of them count on unhygienic methods in the course of menstruation.

Adding to this a 2014 of NGO Dasra titled Spot On! found that approximately 23 million girls drop out of school every year due to lack of appropriate menstrual hygiene management facilities.

Similarly, a UNICEF India study conducted in Uttar Pradesh found that 91% girls stay absent for 1-2 days in school during their periods. Whereas 86% had no toilet facilities and 86% girls were completely unprepared for their first period.

SUGGESTIONS:

So, by setting up the context above, I will request you Sir/Mam to ensure that no girl should drop out or compromise her education because of period, second they should manage their menstruation with ease and dignity in this area. In order to fulfill this aim I suggest some extents to pay heed upon-

1. Educating and sensitizing Community Health Workers/ASHA appropriately:

Apparently, I found that many community health workers themselves are not much prepared to talk openly about periods and its management in the community so an adequate training should be provided to them by experts working in the field of menstrual wellbeing. Similarly, UNICEF India study in UP reveals that 85% Community Health workers (CHW) working under MHM scheme does not know about the reason of menstruation.  62% CHW were unaware of the significance of clean and dry menstrual absorbents. On personal level girls without having much hesitation can talk to the CHWs if they would be sensitive, friendly and polite towards girls. CHWs can be trained in areas like-

  • Adequate menstrual Knowledge including its anatomy
  • Positive attitude and guidance
  • Parents counseling particularly of mother’s
  • menstrual taboo and myths
  • routine health screening of adolescents
  • education on morbidities like; Cramps, irregular-abnormal menstrual patterns and Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • To comfort girls to overcome from self-doubts, fear, shame and embarrassment
  • Regular pad distribution

 

2. Expand menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in schools:

Schools can become the central platform for improving the MHM, which include availability of sanitary napkins and logical awareness of menstruation among both boys and girls.

  • Provision of clean blood absorbent in school
  • Female friendly Toilets- having equipped with latched doors, cleanliness, ventilation, lights and built in isolation place
  • Running Water
  • Absorbent disposal facilities/ dustbin
  • Soaps to wash body and cloths
  • Privacy to manage menstruation
  • Educator to Alter boy’s attitude towards girls
  • Positive school environment
  • Period friendly teachers and staff

 

3. Expand MHM in Community development program: 

As I mentioned above toilets are not constructed in the communities’ houses thus girls go out for defecation that is invitation of catching vaginal infection of various kind. I request you to ensure the facilitation of toilet in each family so that girls and women can manage their periods with dignity. Pad distribution by heath workers and schools are irregular thus Further, I propose to install a bio-degradable sanitary napkin making machine that would be reusable for menstruators and of low cost to have ease in purchase. The handling of the machine should be given to the women of the same community after their appropriate training; this will guarantee them a means of employment also. In addition, It will diminish the severe problem of disposal of sanitary napkins in the community. For the holistic way out to overcome period embarrassment and restrictions I see men and boys as a prominent stakeholders in battling this issue hence sensitized education about women’s’ health among male counterparts can be initiated by founding a youth club consisting of young boys. This club will sensitize others males and the process will continue. For this setting up of collaboration with NGOs working in this area can be supportive.

I understand the given suggestion will demand much expenditure and resources but more than that It require determination to remove menstrual troubles among girls and women that is their basic human right.

Thanking you in anticipation for paying adequate attention to this letter.

 

A Requestee ,

JYOTI PALI,

Menstrual Researcher,

Central University of Rajasthan

Kishangarh, Ajmer

Featured image has been provided by the author.
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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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