Topic-General Studies Paper-1; Social Enpowerment, Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and General Studies Paper-2; Issues relating to Health.
- Menstruation is a monthly challenge for billions of women and girls worldwide. At least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
- Inadequate WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities in public places, such as in schools, workplaces or health centers, can pose a major challenge to women and girls.
- The lack of separate toilets with doors that can be safely closed, or the unavailability of means to dispose of used sanitary pads and water to wash hands, means that women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a private, safe and dignified manner.
- A girls’ inability to manage their menstrual hygiene in schools, results in school absenteeism, which in turn, has severe economic costs on their lives and on the country. In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school, after they start menstruating, according to a research by Nielsen and Plan India.
- The challenge for menstruating women is rooted in social norms and beliefs. In many cultures, menstruating women are considered impure and are systematically excluded from participating in every-day activities, such as education, employment, and cultural and religious practices. Moreover, the taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation lead to an overall culture of silence around the topic, resulting in limited information on menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Such misinformation can have ramifications on the health and dignity of girls and women.
- Given the multiple challenges women and adolescent girls face, it is evident that promoting menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is not only a sanitation matter; it is also an important step towards safeguarding the dignity, bodily integrity and life opportunities of women and girls.
- MHM has also been included in large-scale programs. A flagship sanitation Programme supported by the World Bank Group in India, the Swachh Bharat Mission includes measures on constructing facilities that cater to the needs of menstruating girls, and on raising awareness among the community, including boys and men, with the objective of breaking the taboo around menstruation.
- The Oscars have brought global attention to menstruation once again, emphasising how menstruation restrict girls’ freedom and affect their health. One solution offered was sanitary pads.
- The film Pad Man played a pivotal role in encouraging conversations about periods and positioning sanitary pads as the solution.
- A critical aspect of hygienic management is the use of safe or hygienic materials. The latest National Family and Health Survey 4 found that 58 per cent of young Indian women (15-24 years) use a hygienic method of protection. This is, no doubt, a consequence of greater attention to menstrual hygiene management (MHM) over the past few years in India.
- Several government and non-government programmes have promoted menstrual hygiene through health awareness schemes and free or subsidised distribution of sanitary pads.
- Small-scale sanitary pad manufacturing units have been supported to make low-cost pads more easily available, while generating income for women. Over the past year in India, several state governments have announced schemes.
- The goal of MHM initiatives is to ensure that girls and women are able to manage their periods in a hygienic manner and experience health, education and other related benefits. To actualise this goal, we need efforts directed at awareness and education about menstruation and menstrual hygiene, and access to safe products, and responsive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure.
- One such example is the only government-run social campaign in Himachal Pradesh called Nari Samman, a social movement to put a hold on women’s social exclusion and their exile into outhouse/cattle sheds during periods in extreme winters.
- With only two cities in India — Bengaluru and Pune — implementing solid waste interventions to effectively segregate and identify menstrual waste during routine garbage collection, the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016 underscores the challenge.
- Progress in WASH, including in MHM, needs to be monitored if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring adequate water and sanitation for all.
- There are huge challenges to normalise menstruation and adopt menstrual hygiene management. Before we mainstream menstrual hygiene we need to prioritise awareness programmes about socio-cultural norms and perceptions, access to menstrual hygiene products, proper usage and segregation of sanitary waste.
- All Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programs should plan for this increasing disposal of MHM waste.
Right now India is seeing a movement for toilets for each house. But
menstrual hygiene is not a part of it. We should make an effort for the same. Menstrual
Hygiene Management is the need of the hour since it is not only a sanitation
drive but very important tool to boost the confidence level of women and girls
and empower them physically as well as mentally which in turn leads to their