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Adopting A Menstrual Approach In Educational Institutions

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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.

The Indian school system is a domain that critically needs to develop menstrual infrastructure. The adolescent menstruating population faces several issues, from the inaccessibility of menstrual products to inadequate sanitation facilities.

In today’s scenario, campaigns like “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” are being popularised. But the fact that many young girls are unable to continue their education due to lack of sanitation and menstrual products in schools proves to be counterproductive.

The graph is somewhat similar across the country. Except for a few select organisations, a major chunk of schools or colleges either in rural or urban areas, fail to acknowledge their responsibility towards the menstruating population they constitute.

The need for infrastructure in educational Institutions

According to UNICEF, approximately 28 million children, accounting for 14.7% of total children enrolled, do not have access to toilet facilities in schools. 

Educational institutes, thus, aren’t equipped to support adolescents during monthly cycles, resulting in massive absenteeism. The inability, or rather inaction on the part of institutes to provide primary menstrual products such as sanitary napkins, reflects the need for menstrual awareness.

The problem doesn’t just end here. Sometimes, schools don’t even have washrooms or running water supply or private areas to facilitate the changing of menstrual products. In such a scenario, many opt to skip school every month or drop out altogether on attaining puberty. And those that can fulfil the bare minimum criteria are lagging at other fronts. 

It’s a one-step forward two steps back routine. Even leading schools in metropolitan areas that boast of world-class facilities and high academic standards do not bother sensitising their student body towards the issue. 

In a community that predominantly stigmatises menstruation, the shame associated with it turns into yet another barrier against education. It isn’t uncommon to witness educational institutes that are fundamental in shaping the youth of the nation, turning a blind eye and ear to the importance of promoting menstrual awareness and positivity.

In order to ensure the creation of a friendly school environment for menstruators, installing sanitary napkin dispensers and incinerators, or launching awareness campaigns isn’t enough. Instead, the sanitation infrastructure in schools has to incorporate not a gendered approach but a menstrual approach.

Impact on the education of young Children

Each year, millions of students drop out of schools on attaining puberty due to period poverty, stigma and lack of educational resources to manage monthly cycles.

Many young individuals depend on their schools or educational institutions for menstrual products, owing to several reasons like poverty or inaccessibility. Often, the availability of sanitary napkins and menstrual products turns into an incentive for attending schools.

Each year, millions of students drop out of schools on attaining puberty due to period poverty, stigma and lack of educational resources to manage monthly cycles. Or the inability of the public domain to provide proper products and sanitation facilities are also a few of the reasons. However, while some consistency is seen in annual statistics, we barely witness effective policy change to support menstruators.  

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent menstrual Health 

The current pandemic has not only exacerbated the situation but highlighted the further cracks in accessibility. While many are fortunate enough to be able to afford menstrual products, a large number of young people were dependent on schools to provide them with the necessary sanitary products.

Indian streets house a large population of the country’s poor. For them, it was challenging to observe hygiene ever before the outburst of the pandemic. The outbreak has only made this process harder. Likewise, a large portion of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) have been disproportionately hit. Constrained production and limitations on the supply chain have adversely influenced the availability of commodities.

And with layoffs in every sector, menstrual products are classified as a “luxury”, often taking a back sit in the face of essentials like food and shelter. However, this is a “luxury” that one cannot afford to lose.

Not only do people not understand that menstrual needs cannot be grouped anywhere, but within the bracket of essentials they also don’t seem to grasp the health implications of many individuals reverting to using rags, wood shavings or ashes in these extenuating circumstances.

There have been numerous efforts by non-governmental organisations or social workers to supply menstrual products, especially in low-income regions. Although this has made a difference, there is yet much to be accomplished.

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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.

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.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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