Till today, Indian women are expected to follow a number of superstitious rituals and beliefs surrounding menstruation. Even if we think that we have progressed and become more modern or liberal, there are a lot of things that remain to be improved on. Girls are still being silenced when it comes to talking about menstrual health and hygiene. How can they speak up about it when periods are looked upon as something that is ‘impure’ and ‘dirty’? There are so many rules dictating the women on what they should eat, where they should sleep and certain rules about bathing as well. These days, there has been a lot of debate and discussions about making sanitary napkins more accessible to people.
1. Over 20% of adolescent girls drop out of school after they start menstruating
Often, girls living in rural areas don’t have access to sanitary napkins. To avoid the shaming of having stained their clothes, they would rather sit at home and miss classes or even drop out of school altogether. This may also be because they can’t afford to pay for both - the school tuition fees and the cost of buying sanitary napkins. Other reasons are that there are superstitious beliefs that don’t allow girls to step out while they are menstruating.
2. India’s ‘Menstrual Man’ named in TIME’s Top 100 Influential People 2014
Arunachalam Muruganantham, who became famous for making India’s first low-cost sanitary napkins, had sold 1300 of his low-cost machinery that is used to make these pads across 27 states in India and even exported a few to the developing countries around the world. The machines not only produced the low-cost sanitary napkins but also created jobs. He refused offers from various commercial companies for his machinery, selling them only to woman’s self-help groups.
3. 66% of girls don’t know about menstruation even when they get their first period
As sad as it sounds, many girls are unaware of what menstruation is all about when they get their first period. They don’t know how to care for themselves during this period and are often scared or ashamed to talk or ask about it to anyone even though it is a natural bodily function.
4. Lack of awareness affects a woman’s mental, physical and psychological health
If a girl is not educated about their menstruation, it can affect them in a negative way. She would not understand why she gets her period. She also may not know why she is being made to follow all the rituals or superstitions she is asked to follow - and whether there is any science involved in it.
5. 88% of women in India don’t have access to sanitary napkins
Only 12% of the women in India actually use the sanitary napkins. The remaining 88% of women use unsanitary methods like using rags, old newspapers or leaves to absorb the blood.
6. Women often reduce their water intake so they don’t have to use the toilet
Out of the fear that they would have to use the toilet frequently during their period, many women actually reduce their water intake. But this is bad for health. You should be consuming sufficient amount of water even while you are on your period. In fact, sipping on warm water helps to reduce cramps as well as the effect of bloating.
7. Women in rural areas have to travel far to get access to sanitary napkins
Although sanitary napkins are supposed to be a basic hygiene product, they are not made easily available in all the rural areas. Often, women would have to travel far to get their hands on the product and may have to travel again in order to dispose of the product properly.
8. Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated on May 28th every year
Started in 2014 by WASH (wash, sanitation and hygiene), Menstrual Hygiene Day aims at building awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene to the women and children. The celebration of this day helped start a conversation around the world about a topic that they had been uncomfortable to talk about before.