Political Will And Administrative Skill Are The Answer To Period Stigma

Period Paath logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC, to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management among menstruating persons in India. Join the conversation to take action and demand change! The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

The MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management) issue is not progressing adequately or seeing enough success, even though we have so many NGOs working in this field. Have you ever wondered, why it is so?

Ever thought; what are the top gaps in our society that are causing us to lag far behind, in the race for women empowerment? I think it’s easy and very specific to guess. Well, you can pause while reading this article and try to guess, while we continue the story ahead.

Okay, so the biggest reason for the failure of any policy in our Indian context is the lack of political will and administrative skill to deal with the confronting issues. We, as a nation, fail terribly at these two fronts in every sphere, so it is obvious our MHM fight is also suffering from these evils.

Developmental spheres, such as women’s education, women’s health, period poverty, and so many other dimensions are a part of this cause.

That being said, let’s understand where it exactly fits into our story. The role of the above-mentioned two pillars of powerful forces, comes into play, on the very first step of our issue; which is addressing the lack of MHM and sanitation facilities as a genuine problem. No major political party has come up with a manifesto iterating their clear stand on the MHM agenda. Why?

It is high time that parties should understand not only the will of the people but also the needs of the population. And the foremost need is for better education and health opportunities. MHM needs a political dimension in order to become a mass movement. Half of the vote-bank is in the women’s community, therefore, even for a populist measure, parties should have thought about including it in their agenda. But why haven’t they thought of it?

Where does our role come into the picture? As citizens, we have to raise our voices on this issue, not by forcing the government to come out with rule-books but sensitising all political players to care about MHM. We have to demand their attention (but peacefully) in order to initiate the supply side chain of better results.

Developmental spheres, such as women’s education, women’s health, period poverty, and so many other dimensions are a part of this cause. I wonder, how can our politicians ignore all of this, even if they are just concerned about vote bank politics?

If our politicians can come up with mammoth plans for the economic revival of the nation, then this is a very basic issue for them. Why is there provision for the MHM component, related to women, in any of the “Sankalp or Wahetever Patra” these parties come out with? Do they not consider women’s health as important as the health of the nation’s defence or economic sector?

Now, coming to the second pillar; it has been observed that any pompous MHM scheme does not do the work, if the officers and the authorities, do not show the will to implement it themselves. The policies are sacrosanct and they should be followed not only in letter but also in spirit. But why are our administrators not sensitive enough towards the cause? That’s the question our government should enquire about, before ordering the installation of numerous sanitary pad disposal machines.

It is not just about coming up with the framework, rather, the work rests on the perfect execution of the scheme. Unfortunately, in our country, there is an absence of efficient and effective implementation.

These are the sole reasons which lead to tardy execution of schemes at the ground level. Why do rural women or NGOs working in the MHM field still have to hear only one response from officials – that this issue is not important, and it only affects women; why should others think about it? For how long will this gameplay continue?

*Feature image is representational. 

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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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