In the advent of 21ST Century, the topic of menstruation is treated as disgraceful as ever. According to a study in India, majority chunk among females having reached the age of puberty, doesn’t even know what feminine napkins are.
On 28th May, people around the globe observe – Menstrual Hygiene Day, which aims at breaking taboos and raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management for women and adolescent girls worldwide, initiated and run by the German-based NGO WASH United. May 28 was chosen for its symbolism, since May is the 5th month of the year and most women average 5 days every month and their cycle is approximately 28 days. The initiative for MH Day has received the support of over 270 global partners who are committed to making good menstrual health and hygiene a priority worldwide like SNV, Plan, Water for People and others.
In a 2014 study conducted in India, the researchers found that around 42% of women who participated in the study did not know about sanitary napkins or from where in their anatomy catamenia originated from and “most of them were scared on their first cycle.” On 28 May 2014, people worldwide celebrated MH Day for the first time with rallies, exhibitions, movie screenings, workshops and speeches. There were 145 partners involved with the first MHD. For 2015, a hashtag campaign on social media lent an optimistic view at challenging societal norms with the #IfMenHadPeriods.
In many parts of India, even talking about the ‘curse’ is a forbidden act, making the situation worse. It doesn’t limit here. She even has to undergo arduous mental torment socially and intimately. Many women in rural and urban Indian families are still not allowed to enter kitchen and temples and cannot worship during one’s time of the month, while some force her to be locked in one room for ‘those’ days. Moreover, fungal infection is quite common in rural areas as women are not allowed to sun-dry their undergarments. This affects physical and emotional development of girls, resulting in low self-esteem and poor performance at school. According to a study in India, around 95% of girls missed schools during ‘those’ days for varied reasons. Another research in Bihar showed that almost about 39% of girls reported poor performance at school for the same reason. Often, the lack of adequate toilet facilities at school and fear and embarrassment due to the stigma attached to it further contributed to their disengagement in studies. A UNESCO report said that girls who are afraid to go to school during menstruation have fewer chances of growing up to be fully-empowered women.
More than 10% Indians treat menstrual cycle as a disease, according to a ‘WaterAid’ report. Round about 75% of Women in India buy sanitary napkins wrapped in either brown or black packets. 12% of women in urban and 1% in rural areas in India, have the facility of hygienic sanitary napkins. 100% women in Singapore and Japan, 88% in Indonesia, and 64% in China have access to hygiene sanitary napkins.
If the same ‘stain’ remains prevalent, no such awareness initiatives will help change the society.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)