Mrs. Imarti Devi, Minister of Women and Child Development, Mr. Prabhuram Choudhary, Minister of School Education, Mr. Omkar Singh Markam, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Mr. Tulsiram Silawat, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and Mr. Lakhan Ghanghoria, Minister of Social Justice and Disabled Welfare,
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Sub: Regarding condition of menstrual hygiene in Madhya Pradesh.
I am writing this open letter to draw your kind attention with regard to an issue which has been existing since the inception of human life and is of vital importance but has largely been absent from the general public discourse due to the stigma associated with it. The issue I talk about is Menstruation. Ancient Sanskrit texts described 16 rites of passage, also known as Solah Sansakara, which also included Ritushuddhi ceremony that marked menarche or first menstrual cycle of girl and was celebrated by gifting her a half saree. In the course of time, with the decline of ancient knowledge and traditions, the stigma associated with menstruation increased and it became a taboo subject in the society and as a consequence awareness related to it decreased to a large scale making a sizeable number of women ill, unhealthy and unhygienic.
According to National Family Health Survey-4, Madhya Pradesh fares worst in unhygienic menstrual practices. Apart from the fact that there is a lack of information regarding Menstrual Hygienic Management across-the-board, the gloomy picture of our state reminds me of the fact that we have the largest tribal population in the country. It is a well known fact that there remains educational backwardness in tribal belts of India; I would like to describe the not-so-good situation in our state.
In Sheopur, women belonging to Saharia tribe lock themselves in rooms having kaccha floors. They remain inside for five days and also refrain from taking bath and even changing clothes. Women belonging to Baiga tribe sleep on the floor. They are treated as patients as if they suffer from some kind of disease. The story is no different for Bharia tribe of Patalkot and tribes residing in Jhabua and Alirajpur where it is considered as a disease. Women here are not allowed to enter kitchen, temple premises, touch male members and eat spicy food. The prejudices have a direct impact on dropout rate of girls.
Women belonging to these tribal belts don’t express their concern usually out of choice as they have been living in particular not-so-modern socio-cultural conditionings. But I think about those women and girls who can’t even express themselves because of their underlying intellectual and physical disabilities. I have seen tears in the eyes of those mothers who have complete responsibility of their young daughters suffering from Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Menstruation becomes a curse in such cases.
Considering these issues in mind, I put forward a 3 point strategy to deal with this issue thoroughly. I request all of you to look into this and take required actions.
1. For creating awareness- a) a comprehensive chapter PeriodPaath dedicated to menstruation in the curriculum. This will also include Menstrual Hygiene Management details and drugs (NSAIDs only) used to treat disorders like Dysmenorrhea, Oligomenorrhea, Polymenorrhea and Hypermenorrhea etc. b) Appointing paid educated volunteers “Sakhi” in tribal areas. c) Observance of Menstruation Day on 28th May. d) Inclusion of Menstruation in Panchdhara Yojana of state government and appropriate fund allocation.
2. To make it affordable- a) Collaboration with Solutions Partners and organizations like StoneSoup and Vikalp Design. They have developed Menstruation Kit which inter alia covers Menstrual Cups and Cloth Pads. This has to be first implemented on experiment basis. b) Installation of Sanitary Napkins vending machines in public places, institutes, railway stations e.g. Happy Nari at Bhopal Railway Station.
3. For intellectually and physically challenged, a high-level committee to examine possibilities of Menstrual Suppression by using hormonal management or Endometrial Ablation.
Time has arrived that we must give due attention to such issues and learn something from the Padwomen of Jhabua and District Collector of Ashok Nagar who started commendable Shuchita Abhiyan for the same. Also, there is a need to stop prejudices against women as Sikhism taught that one can’t be pure by washing his/her body but purity of mind is the real pureness.