New Delhi: Statistics indicate that India has over 355 million menstruating women and girls, but many of them face uncomfortable and undignified experience with menstrual hygiene management. Despite national and international level push to address this issue through various social media platforms, campaigns, availability of eco-friendly or biodegradable menstrual products, etc., there is still ambiguity around the issue especially in the rural areas. On Menstrual Hygiene Day, there is a need to raise awareness on these aspects especially among rural school going girls.
Informed choice is an important aspect of women’s reproductive and sexual health. This is also important with regard to menstrual hygiene wherein they have access to information about the products available, their advantages and how to use and dispose them, and the freedom to choose a product depending on their needs, and the socio-economic contexts in which they live in.
Speaking about this, Srijana Bagaria, Co-founder, Pee Safe, said, “Despite progressive statistics, menstrual hygiene is an essential aspect of female health which is grossly neglected in India. Although there are several government initiatives which have brought significant improvement in the number of women having access to sanitary pads, many in the rural areas continue using unhygienic alternatives. Awareness needs to be raised not only on maintaining hygiene, but also on the availability of sustainable alternatives such as biodegradable sanitary pads and menstrual cups. They are beneficial to both women’s health and the environment.”
Adding further, Dr Hrishikesh Pai, Past Secretary General FOGSI (Gynaecologist and IVF Specialist), said, “Period talk is an extremely important aspect of sexual education in young girls. It must be imparted at the right age and time leading up to menarche. There is a need to make them aware that inadequate attention to menstrual hygiene can lead to many infections and even cervical cancer over time. Awareness is needed not only among the girls but also their mothers and family on how important it is to offer support and understanding during this critical phase.’
Lack of menstrual hygiene after the birth of a baby can also impact the mother’s health leading to issues such as urinary tract infection (UTI) and reproductive tract infections (RTIs). Awareness on the use of hygienic methods and proper disposal of waste is a must.
Dr Sara Bailur, Pediatrician and Clinical Genetecist, Redcliffe Lifesciences, said, “There is a strong need for creating awareness among women of hygienic practices during the menstrual, partum and postpartum periods. Unclean practices can increase the risk of infections in new mothers impacting their health. Thus, apart from using proper sanitary products, it is also imperative to ensure that they wash their intimate area well, change pads from as and when required, among other things.”
As a society, the stigma around periods or menstruation must be overcome. it is imperative to understand that there is nothing shameful or impure about and that women have the right to access to sanitation and good menstrual hygiene. Building knowledge and support are key as is dispelling myths and taboos surrounding menstruation by talking about it proactively without shame