The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,
Government of India
It’s almost a decade since the launch of Menstrual Hygiene Scheme in 2011. About 9 years have passed by and how much has actually changed? It’s time for reality check to retrospect and accordingly decide the course of future interventions and actions. In order to highlight each of the aspects objectively, I have listed them point wise :
As per studies, 71% girls are unaware about the concept of menstruation untill menarche(Source : Spot On! Dasra). This further amplifies the responsibility of the flagship of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”. Menstrual health and hygiene should be part of school curriculum. As of today, many girls upon puberty do not know how to cope with menstrual blood. The first sight of it makes them afraid and anxious as they have never been taught the coping mechanisms, neither at school nor at home.
In many rural pockets of our country, easy access to menstrual absorbents is still a challenge. Many villages solely rely on “Freedays” sanitary napkins provided by ASHA. There is a dire need for easily accessible options. For example, sanitary napkin vending machines should be installed at schools, colleges, offices, bus stands, railway stations, airports and all other places.
As we know the sad reality of our country that a major part of our population is still below the poverty line, affordability of sanitary napkins is still is big issue. Even though ASHA does supply the sanitary napkins at highly subsidized rates, irregularity and area coverage of the supply is still a major road block. Especially after the decentralisation of procurement of sanitary napkins by States and UTs in 2016, it has become all the more important to track its supply at the grassroot level.
There is still lack of proper disposal facilities for sanitary waste. Incinerators need to be installed so that sanitary waste can be treated in the hygiene manner. In the interest of public health, correct handling of sanitary waste is a prerequisite.
5. Ending the social stigma
Even at this day and age, there is this belief of menstrual impurity. Menstruating women and girls are not allowed to sleep with family, touch pickle and papad as it is believed that her impurity will spoil the food items. It is also believed that if a dog digs out a used menstrual cloth buried in the ground, the woman who used it will become infertile. It’s important to end such taboos and that is possible only by mainstreaming the conversation around menstrual health. This conversation should not be restricted to just women, rather men should also be brought on board as allies to fight out these misbeleifs. There should be more and more discussion around menstrual health in communities, public heath sectors and most importantly within families.
Now if let’s look at the data from some reputed studies:
1. Reproductive tract infections are 70% more common among women who use unhygienic materials (Source : Spot On ! Dasra)
2. Poor menstrual hygiene is also the reason why India accounts for 27 % of the world’s cervical cancer deaths (Source : WHO )
3. Around 23% of girl drop out from schools in India is due to lack of menstrual health facilities ( Source : World Aid, India )
Now that we know the gravity of the situation, I request your immediate attention into this matter. While we talk about women empowerment, it’s incumbent upon all of us to provide our women a healthy life with dignity.
Look forward to your prompt attention in this matter of public interest.
Thanks & Regards,
Sameer Ranjan Kumar