Let’s Talk About Menstruation
“Let’s Talk, Period.”
Taboos are formed and established in a particular culture by the perpetuating of thoughts and beliefs over a particular period of time. They become so embedded in our collective psyche that we refuse to let go of them even when the circumstances in which they originated change. Menstrual hygiene is a taboo; many people are uncomfortable discussing it in public. Approaching it from a socio-psychological perspective, keeping women away from kitchen, religious spheres, bedrooms etc. had a logical basis. During early era, there was no means (products) to maintain hygiene during menstruation. Women used a cloth over and over again. Washing menstruation cloth and drying it in sun was, in most circumstances, not possible due to the male presence in the home. Facts so far about this particular issue leads to the conclusion that these taboos, myths and prescribed behaviors were based on the circumstances, quality of life and not any other reason.
However, over time, this taboo of menstruation has more or less inflicted indignity upon millions of women and girls. According to a National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16, about 57.6 percent of the Indian women use sanitary napkins and 62 percent women in the age group 15-24 years still rely on a cloth during periods. Let’s look at some more facts:
- Young girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and other women shy away from discussing the issue with them
- 10% of the girls in India believe menstruation is a disease
- Only 13% of the girls are aware of menstruation before their first period (UNICEF)
- 56% of the girls in and out of school-did not receive any information about menstruation (UNICEF)
- 66% of the Indian girls do not know anything about menstruation before their first period(UNICEF)
- 87% of the women and girls are completely unaware about menstruation and do not have knowledge about the purpose of menstruation as a biological process (UNICEF)
The silence around menstruation limits women and adolescent girls access to relevant and important information about their bodies, directly affecting their health, education and human rights. The grave lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products can push menstruating girls out of school, temporarily and sometimes permanently. To recapitulate, we must end the hesitation around menstruation and challenge societal norms that claim that periods are shameful or dirty. Breaking down taboos so that we can discuss this natural bodily function impacts beyond a woman’s reproductive health.
At Nidhi foundation, we organize workshops and campaigns for females which helps to create awareness regarding menstrual hygiene. We also provide kits at the campaign areas for their awareness about sanitary napkins and its benefits. Discussions veered on orienting the health educators and volunteers on good hygienic practices such as use of sanitary napkins, washing and cleaning, how to dispose sanitary napkins, followed by precautions to take during the period and dietary habits and tell them the disadvantages about the reuse of same cloth and encourage them to practice hygiene and follow logic and science instead of menstruation myths. But our work does not end here! There is still a long way to go and we will continue to continue our awareness campaigns and ensure every woman has a healthy period. Furthermore, Nidhi foundation have promised itself to improve the life and health of females so as to enable them to lead a healthy reproductive and safer life in future.