What Young India Thinks About Periods

A pan-India analysis to better understand and gauge people’s perception of menstrual hygiene management.

A survey by:


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In India, the conversation around menstruation has taken great strides in the past few years in the digital space, especially with movements like #HappyToBleed. Despite this, millions of menstruators are still denied the right to manage their periods in a dignified and healthy way. This issue perpetuates due to prevalence of gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and dearth of basic sanitation services. Adolescent young girls may face stigma and social exclusion during menstruation, while transgender men and non-binary persons may often face discrimination because of their identity, which prevents them to access the safe menstrual hygiene methods and practices. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and Youth Ki Awaaz conducted a study to gather information around menstruators' behaviours, attitudes and practices during their period. Here are the findings from the responses:

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

 

Help India's policymakers understand attitudes and practices around menstruation to fill gaps in existing policies.

 

Collect crucial data around popular perceptions around menstruation that has so far been missing in India.

WHAT WE ASKED YOU

Your understanding and popular beliefs around menstruation
Awareness around menstruation products and sources of information
Opinion around how menstruation affects work and policies

AUDIENCE PROFILE

Based on a sample of 11161 respondents.

 

At 49%

students made up the majority of the respondents, followed by full-time employees (26.2%) and unemployed persons (10.6%).

 

45%

respondents had completed graduate level education, 27.6% were post graduates and 17.5% had completed matriculation.

 

57.5%

respondents are from metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad. The rest are spread across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities from all states.

FINDINGS OF THE SURVEY

Understanding And Beliefs Around Periods

97.3%

respondents considered menstruation to be a biological process when they first heard about it.

At the same time, 90.1%

respondents believe that certain practices should be avoided during periods.

80%

menstruators experienced a negative emotion when they had their first period.

0.2%

menstruators experienced a positive emotion like joy, fascination, relief, excitement or happiness.

Are We Comfortable Talking About Periods?

93.5%

would be comfortable discussing periods with their partners.

81.8%

would be comfortable talking about it with their children.

The respondents were asked their opinion on whether menstruation was adequately discussed in school:

27.4%

said yes, but 49% thought that information imparted to students could be improved. Also, 28.3% stated that teachers skip this particular topic in school.

What Products Do We Use, And How Are They Disposed?

Product Use

However, 80.7% menstruators found sanitary pads to have environmental consequences and are ready to switch to alternate eco-friendly products, provided it is affordable and offers quality protection.

Disposal

36.7% respondents from Kerala, followed by 17.1% from Himachal Pradesh opt for burning as a method of disposal. And in the case of burying, respondents from Himachal Pradesh at 14.77% and Uttar Pradesh 7.9% ranked the highest.

When it came to purchasing menstrual hygiene products, 72.7% respondents were always able to buy MHM products from stores. However, 24% male respondents couldn’t purchase sanitary materials because they felt really uncomfortable.

What Health Issues Do Menstruators Face Most?

90.2%

menstruating respondents said they face at least one health issue during their period.

 

 

How Does This Affect Productivity?

For some women, the menstrual cycle is accompanied with many psychological change, such as irritability, mood liability, depression and anxiety. Apart from that, menstruation also requires accessibility to clean and safe washrooms, clean water, safety from leakage etc. All these factors combined tend to affect the productivity of menstruators.

Physical factors

Infrastructural factors

Only 10.29%

menstruating respondents said that they face no hindrance in productivity during periods.

Of the respondents, it was also observed that a higher percentage of people under the age of 28 are affected by period related issues in comparison to those above 28.

What Is Our Take On Menstrual Leave?

The number of leaves women take because of periods, and the need for period leave.

 

40.7%

respondents don't take leave because of their periods. 30.6% take one or two days off, and less than 4% take more than three days' leave.

 

44%

of full-time employees stated that menstrual leave should exist as menstruation affects their productivity.

However, 24.5% also thought that this could create bias in hiring women.

 

20.6%

respondents thought that instead of leave, adequate MHM facility at workplace would be sufficient to deal with menstruation related issues.

Is Menstruation A Women's Issue?

 

47%

respondents think that menstruation is just a women's issue.

 

31%

respondents didn’t know that transmen and non-binary people menstruate.

 

This also explains why only 10% thought that transmen and non-binary community’s menstruation needs are being addressed in contrast to 11% who thought it was not.

 

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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 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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