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The Toilets In My School Stank So Much, I Would Hold My Pee In Till I Reached Home

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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.

Nobody likes to visit a public toilet unless it is an emergency. We would condition our mind to hold the urge to urinate until we come home. Have you urinated? You cannot once you leave the house. It is advice most of the children get from the grownups in India.

In India, access to clean public toilets is still a challenge. Main challenges are uncleanliness, safety issues and lack of public toilets in small towns. If you are outside during period days, finding a clean public toilet would be almost impossible. The only option would be going to a restaurant, ordering food and using their toilet.

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation and Karnataka state government have directed all eateries to allow the public access to their toilets. Some hoteliers voluntarily decided to provide this service. There have been references saying that The Sarais Act, 1867 allows anyone to use a hotel toilet.

How To Maintain Menstrual Hygiene

As per UNICEF, menstrual hygiene is said to be maintained if the below-mentioned conditions are satisfied:

  • Women must use clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood.
  • During the period, they should be able to change this material as often as necessary in private.
  • The body must be washed with soap and water as required.
  • Finally, they must be able to access safe and convenient facilities to dispose of used menstrual protection products.

Proper menstrual hygiene gives menstruators confidence to live their lives normally. This would not distance them from the wider society during period days. Also, good menstrual hygiene helps to keep your body free from infections.

Sanitary napkin needs to be changed every four to six hours. It is important to use the sanitary napkins properly to lower risks related to periods. Changing sanitary napkins every four to six hours is essential for vaginal hygiene. This reduces the growth of bacteria and prevents infections.

It is important to clean your vagina regularly after removing the sanitary napkin. Soaps or vagina hygiene products must not be used during periods! Dispose of your used sanitary napkins and tampons properly. Wrap them properly before you dispose of them. Do not flush them, as it will block the toilet. Once disposed of, your hands need to be washed properly.

More than one sanitary napkin should not be used simultaneously even during heavy flow. Even though it helps you to prevent stains on clothes, it can lead to infections.

Why Do People Refrain From Using Public Toilets?

There are a lot of public toilets now, but are they usable? The main reason being the lack of toilet essentials to maintain even basic hygiene. Flushes do not work most of the time. Sometimes, there would not be any hand showers. How do you clean yourself with a mug/cup in such a toilet? Soap and hand sanitizers are a rarity in public toilets.

Toilet tissues are usually not stocked. Used sanitary napkins lying around make a disgusting sight. Door handles and latches do not work, making it unsafe to use. Most of the toilets also do not have door hooks to hang our bags or dupatta. Above all, sometimes water taps do not work, or there would be no water if they work.

Credits: Business Today

While using menstrual cups, users can only empty the blood from the cup and cannot clean it. Thus, they prefer an alternative product to use while they are out. Due to all these reasons, people refrain from using public toilets. But one thing everyone is concerned is about the infections we are prone to from its usage.

Some girls use hygiene products to reduce the risk of infections. Sanitizers can also be used on toilet surfaces like flush, door handles and even taps. Also, reusable urination devices help to stand and urinate – when you don’t want to sit on an unfriendly toilet. But public toilets are used mostly by common people. So, they may not be able to afford such hygiene products.

When we look at common toilets in schools, even they are not well maintained. In my school days, I hardly used the school toilet; I would use it twice or thrice in a year. Many of my friends, too, were reluctant to use unclean school toilets. During my period days at school, I would use the same pad for around ten hours. This was because the toilets were unclean and had no proper used pad disposal system.

We went to school early in the morning and would hold the urge to urinate until reaching home. The first thing to do after getting home was to run to the washroom. My mother used to scold me for not using the school toilet. I knew it might be harmful to my body organs. But I had no other option, and I continued with this habit until I finished my graduation.

I usually avoid hanging out with friends during my period days due to unclean public toilets and poor accessibility. In the UK, where I currently live, public toilets are maintained well when compared to India. Toilet papers, separate sanitary bins for pads, hand wash liquids, hand dryer, mirrors and hooks for hanging bags are all available in toilets in the UK.

Most of the public toilets have touch-free soap dispensers, which would be helpful for combating the spread of viruses in the situation.

All the public toilets are disabled friendly also. In some offices and public places, we can find gender-neutral toilets too. In public places, we can find toilets easily by googling ‘public toilets near me’ or by following signboards. Recently Indian government has built household public toilets under the Swachh Bharat mission. They need to be maintained well throughout. To maintain menstrual hygiene, it needs more facilities than just empty bladder or bowel.

Moreover, we need to provide awareness to people on how to keep toilets clean. Unless people who use these toilets to cooperate, cleanliness and hygiene cannot be maintained.

Featured image courtesy of Jason Neville on Flickr!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

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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
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