This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Gunjan Khadria. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Periods Become A Vulnerability For Women Living In Slums

More from Gunjan Khadria

This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Indian urban slum dwellers and the urban poor make up a heterogeneous group with differing levels of deprivation and vulnerability. The situation is so common that one in every six urban Indians lives in slums.

In Andhra Pradesh, 36.1 % of its urban population has been living in slums. Nine out of every ten slum households in Odisha are either without a drainage connection or connected to an open drain (making the population more vulnerable to diseases).

Even though cities have many resources, such as clean water, sanitation, and waste disposal systems, they are often accessible to only a small portion of the population, excluding hundreds of millions of people of their fundamental rights.

Health Starts From Toilets

WomenFor women to live healthy, productive, and dignified lives, they need to manage their menstrual cycles effectively. The scenario is possible with access to running water and clean and hygienic toilets. If no appropriate facilities are available, they revert to open defecation and seek railway tracks and municipal dumps under cover of night, as in Mumbai.

The concept of sharing washrooms by multiple households is increasing in urban slums in which women are not comfortable and face issues. The male-dominated engineering and planning may fail to account for the needs of the women. The toilets mostly face the street with no place to dispose of menstrual waste.

When Disposal Is A Problem

There is also a practice seen of disposing of menstrual waste into pit latrines. Disposing into the toilet is also done because women do not want men to see the “blood-soaked cloth/sanitary pad” seen as symbols of witchcraft. But as sanitation systems are not designed to flush sanitary pads, they are unable to cope with them and end up clogging the sewage pipes.

WaterAid India found that women who have access to toilets refrained from using them during their periods due to the fear of staining them. While in some communities, women, and girls are not allowed to use water sources during menstruation. Our country lacks the necessary facilities for menstruating women to handle menstrual hygiene, especially in slum areas.

In a community in the state of Gujarat, 91% of girls reported staying away from flowing water during menstruation. Although managing menstruation requires access to water and sanitation facilities, cultural beliefs and silence that surrounds it results in unhealthy situations for those who menstruate.

The Impact On Women’s Health Living In Urban Slums

There is a clear link between poor menstrual hygiene and urinary tract infections and other illnesses. When women have no access to toilet facilities, they routinely withhold food and water, which subsequently leads to dehydration, discomfort, and urinary tract infections.

Incidences of reproductive tract infections (RTI) are more common amongst women who use unhygienic materials during menstruation. There is an upfront problem when women are not able to practice hygiene-related behaviour such as bathing and cleaning of genitals. This leads to worry, fear, and anxiety. In India, the women have expressed concern of sexual assault due to broken latch or absent doors on shared toilets.

The widespread “Stay Home Stay Safe” message had urged people to stay indoors in the pandemic situation. But it failed for many families in the slums. Families faced the issue of not having the means to earn for food, limited access to water and no toilets in their houses.

“Neither do we have money to buy sanitary napkins, nor can we get them in shops as they are closed since the lockdown. We have to use cloth rags for periods,” expressed Gurubari Digi, a young married woman in Biruasa slum in the western part of Bhubaneswar city.

She further states “It is tough to wash the period rags. For a bucket of water, I have to toil for 30 minutes – 10 minutes each to walk to and from the stand post and at least 10 minutes to wait in the queue. And to wash a used period cloth, it requires at least two buckets of water,” she mentioned. This makes MHM in times of crisis even more difficult.

The period does not stop in a pandemic situation. Looking at these challenges, the Supreme Court had asked the governments to provide basic necessities like water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in these areas. It is yet to be seen how the various governments will step up to relieve these women of their burdens.

The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program

You must be to comment.

More from Gunjan Khadria

Similar Posts

By Mouna Mukherjee

By Jaishree Malik

By Vanshika Bhatt

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below