Dear Government of India,
I’m Priyanshi Madhwani, M.Sc. student from Department of Human Development, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan, Affiliated to University of Mumbai. I’m currently doing a research on ‘Awareness regarding Menstruation and Menstrual Hygiene among young females in Slums. I would like to share some of my shocking research findings with the government through this letter. My sample size for this research was 150 participants from various slums in Mumbai. The age group was 12 to 15 years old females who have already began menstruating.
The findings show that little less than half of the participants (47%) were scared when they got their periods for the first time. On asking the reason for the same, little more than one third of the participants (35%) mentioned that they didn’t know about the release of blood. Shockingly, 12% of the participants mentioned that they thought they have got severe disease or is sick. 2% participants also mentioned that they thought they might die. This kind of experience can have traumatic impact on the young girls. Girls are too scared and shy to share this event with their parents because they don’t even know that this is something that happens to every girl and is a sign of maturity.
My research findings on awareness regarding ‘menstruation’ show that 64% of the participants were not aware of the event being a physiological process. 5% even thought that this is a result of curse on womanhood. Even more shocking results were found regarding the awareness of menstrual hygiene practices. 70% of the participants were not aware of appropriate hygiene practices. Surprisingly, 85% of the participants mentioned that they use pad as an absorbent material because teachers tell them that using cloth can be harmful. But out of these, 33% of the participants change the sanitary pad only twice a day and 6% participants change only once in a day. This practice can be even more harmful and can lead to several reproductive infections and life threatening diseases.
Considering the research findings girls were asked whether they have had any session related to menstruation and menstrual hygiene before the onset of periods. For which, more than half of the participants (56%) stated that they have had no session related to this. I do acknowledge and appreciate the fact that there are sessions provided in BMC schools and private schools regarding menstruation. But, still it is not reaching the targeted population. This is because we simply ignore the fact that absenteeism is extreme in schools in slum. Girls miss out on the session and there is no follow up for the same. A simple solution to this problem is to equip the teachers for passing on the adequate information regarding this matter to the young girls. Teachers in slums should be trained to facilitate the young adolescent girls and settle their queries regarding menstruation. Therefore, government must organize training workshops for the teachers.
Another concern that girls have is of absorbent material. Its we who advice them to use pads instead of cloth. But, pads are expensive because of which the girls use the same pad for a longer time. We can either provide the pads for free because it is a basic necessity of a girl or can teach them to use cloth in an appropriate and hygienic manner.
This level of awareness and the inadequate practices is a serious threat to the health of a woman. A woman spends around 20-25 years menstruating yet this concern is not catered to. These are the research findings from slums in a metropolitan city like Mumbai. If the girls here are ‘at-risk’ one cannot even imagine what must be the scenario in the vulnerable interiors of India. Government should gear up and address this issue at the earliest.
I’m doing my part by developing an intervention program for creating awareness among slums in Mumbai. However, I would like to see what steps the government is taking towards saving our ‘at-risk’ girls.