PeriodPaath: Open Letter To NCERT (National Council Of Educational Research And Training)

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To the Director NCERT,

A hearty appreciation for all the efforts that have been put in developing an enriched curriculum for the overall development of children, that goes beyond the textbooks and connects knowledge to life outside of school. The effort of the institution is impacting lives of many children studying in different schools across the country.

With due respect I would like to bring to your attention a point or two for policy intervention on menstrual health and hygiene. NCERT textbooks have menstrual subject under ‘reproductive system in human body’ in class 9th and 10th standards. Besides, many schools conduct a day workshop to spread awareness on the topic in a year. However, I feel that these do not suffice the educational requirements on women health, especially on menstrual hygiene and health. Menstruation has many dimensions to- social aspects, emotional and psychological aspects, physical aspects. It has an impact on the overall development of every girl child in a society. In a country like ours, tradition and customs regard menstruation as impure and a taboo to talk about and therefore, the role of education becomes more vital to address such issues.

Many misconceptions arise as a result of lack of menstrual knowledge before menarche. They go through menstrual anxieties that are often associated with traumatized experience and depression. It thus becomes important that a proper source of knowledge be given to the children so that it will prepare them to accept their biological changes easier and not come as a surprise or an alien concept to the girls. An important point to note here is that many menstrual educations do not address the importance of pre-menarche education. In my opinion it would be in the best interest and benefit of everyone if a program or subject on the matter be implemented in school syllabus for general education which should be made mandatory for every school.

Few points to consider in menstrual education:

  1. There is a need to address the age gap between girls for the onset of menarche. As menstruation does not happen at a fixed age for every girl, pre-menarche program/syllabus should cover addressing the topic to children before their menarche.
  2.     In addition to the “hows” and the “whys”, practical lessons on usage and disposal should be included along with proper diet and ways to deal with its associated problems like body ache, stomach ache, fatigue, PMS, etc.
  3. Social prejudices and stigmas related with menstruation in different cultures and society should also be addressed.
  4. In several documents and government frameworks, it is mentioned that rural people use leaves, cow dungs, mud, sand and ashes, as sanitary pads are not affordable for them. It is a very concerning situation. Such practices should be discouraged by educating children and women on the harmful side effects. 

Menstrual education at school level in early childhood can have positive impact in the following ways:

  1.   School education and classroom teaching-learning is the most effective way to spread awareness. Therefore, the best method to overcome knowledge deficiency on the subject is through classroom teaching.
  2. Social change starts with the young minds. If children are well equipped with the knowledge, then only there is a scope for change in social attitude towards menstruation.
  3. 3.     Many boys and men shy away from any encounter on such discussion, even women. Thus, school can take the role of eradicating the social stigmas and taboos related to menstruation by setting up an environment and space that is open for such discussion.
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