In the India of 21st century, 90% of women living in rural areas have no access to sanitary pads. Out of around 350 million women of reproductive age in India, only 12% have access to sanitary pads or other hygienic methods according to a study by AC Nielsen and Plan India done in 2010. Not to mention that most of India still has no toilets for its people. In such a situation, menstrual cycles become a horrendous time for all females not to mention a hindrance for them to do their daily work. Women drop out of schools and find it hard to go to work. It is clearly holding the economy back as well. According to World Bank data, female participation in the labour force is just about 29%, less than half that of the Asian giant, China, which sees a female participation of 68% in its labour force and even below that of Sudan. These hard statistics point to the fact that menstrual hygiene, availability of infrastructure and conservative mindsets and hush-hush approach to women’s health issues have for long been a recipe for disaster for Indian women stopping them from achieving their potential.

Add to it are the myths and shame that surround the female anatomy. Forget the rural areas, even in cities we find misinformation floating about menstruation ranging from the absurd ‘evil’ to  common ‘impure’ and ‘unclean’ that most people consider periods to be. Many women are not allowed go to religious places or enter their kitchen during this period. Some are made to rest and stay away from the family and their normal chores in a separate room. Given the entire building up of shame around menstruation and the hesitation in reaching out to doctors or speaking about reproductive health has set a foundation for poor hygiene and infections of the reproductive tract including UTIs (urinary tract infections) and cervical cancer among women.

The need of the hour is to provide sanitary pads/ menstrual cups to women who are still using methods like rags, leaves and others during their periods. Government organizations, NGOs as well as prominent female hygiene products manufacturers are aiming to take low-cost sanitary pads to far-flung corners of the country along with spreading information about menstrual hygiene. There are projects to build more toilets to provide basic sanitation facilities to girls and women especially in schools. But, it is not enough going by the statistics.

What must I do?

To Spark a Change and to see a perceivable difference on the ground, each one of us has to take an initiative to:

  • Reach out to a woman in our immediate surroundings who does not have access to information about menstrual hygiene. This person could be your maid, her daughter or any other female helper that you are in contact with. Spread awareness. Help her understand!
  • Pay for the sanitary pads for one or more such women. It does not take much for one set of pads that costs less than Rs. 50 or $1. Surely, we can afford it!
  • Write about and promote information about women’s menstrual health. As we can see, there are a lot of myths and grandma’s tales floating around even in educated families about this topic.
  • Bring about a change in mindsets: Find time to volunteer for the NGOs to help spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and share your experiences too.
  • Stop any discriminating practices that happen to women in your family during their menstrual cycle. Each small step counts! Help another woman get her rights!

Why should I do it?

Simply because I need to! There is no way the nation can progress if half its population is denied basic rights including the right to living their life with dignity and pride. If we, progressive women and men of today, don’t stand up for our lesser privileged sisters, then this country will always lag behind.

I hope that each one of us starts small and in our immediate environment. This is the only way forward to empower Indian women to accept their bodies and feel no shame in openly discussing and taking care of their menstrual needs.

An aware woman is an empowered woman!

Reference Links:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-24/no-menstrual-hygiene-for-indian-women-holds-economy-back.html

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18 Thoughts on “Spark a Change for Women’s Menstrual Health!

  1. A very well thought of topic Rachna.. sometimes we do not realize how fortunate we are in life … we should put in every effort to help educate whoever we can. It is the least we can do. I’ll def. do it 🙂
    Seeta recently posted…The Silence Of The WriterMy Profile

  2. Seeing and hearing some of the myths about menstruation that are spread in our country, me, being a male am angry and frustrated, and can clearly understand how angry you must be about it. Lovely post which clearly highlights the need for all of us educated individuals to step up and be counted in this regard.
    Jairam Mohan recently posted…The Confession – Chapter 9 – The ConfessionMy Profile

  3. Excellent post, Rachna. This is a topic that I feel strongly about. Also, from a social perspective, there is a ridiculous norm of treating menstruating women like lepers, not allowing them to touch kitchen utensils or step into temples or even say prayers when they want to. As a spiritual person, what I find more shocking is that this is done even among educated families! There is no basis for these ridiculous norms and spiritual masters, as I know it, do not even endorse this practice of keeping menstruating women away from prayer or temples.

    Keep writing, Rachna. I totally enjoy these posts and the way you are presenting them.
    Swapna Raghu Sanand recently posted…What is Raja Yoga?My Profile

  4. A real thoughtful choice of topic and done great justice to such a sensitive topic.
    Hina recently posted…Christmas Themed Pumpkin CakeMy Profile

  5. This is such an important issue Rachna… There are so many stigmas associated with something as natural as this… We should really do whatever we can in our own little way for this is something we know is extremely important!
    Nabanita recently posted…Que Sera Sera but I sure wish for these to be True!My Profile

  6. Menstrual hygiene is still a taboo subject in our society. Few months ago, saw video and read about A Muruganantham, the man who used a sanitary napkin. I was shocked to note that women and girls in villages use unhygienic materials like husks, dried leaves and grass, ash, sand or newspapers during menstruation. We must certainly do our bit to help/support for this basic right!
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Sponsored Video: Domestos-UNICEF Partnership for Improved SanitationMy Profile

    • Yes, I remember that video. Not only him, but other NGOs like Saathi are doing path-breaking work in making low-priced sanitary napkins available in the villages. How tragic it is that again a basic amenity is denied to so many girls and women. I hope we can help out those around us by educating them and helping them monetarily if needed. Thanks for reading, Shilpa!

  7. Hey, nice thought. This should be the fundamental right of women to live healthy. I just have one problem in this article. I am not able to copy reference article link and i had to type it for reading. 🙁

  8. Rachna i will say what has always pained me immensely and for which i hold the oldest political party to be responsible….the hygiene sanitation/ sewerage /toilet facilities are not abominable,but non existent…what have the various governments been doing about this all these years?An American friend remarked once that there is huge difference between our cities and villages.
    We definitely need more toilets and not new places of worship which mushroom by the day.
    induchhibber recently posted…Learning A Lesson…….The Hard Way!My Profile

  9. Thank you Rachna for bringing up such a useful topic to the fore. It is really unfortunate that in our country this subject is a taboo. Recently I read an autobiography of a great lady Guru, who has millions of followers round the world. She too mentions that having been born in a backward village, this subject was kept under wraps. Females in the village used leaves.
    I speak to my maids regarding menstrual hygiene. They refused to take bath on these days. I am giving both of them a packet of sanitary napkins every month.

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