Menstrual hygiene as a priority for achieving gender equality - Mahi Gangwar

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Menstruation - A phenomenon which half our population undergoes..

Yet, is a word which is not even completely acceptable to be spoken out in public.

We all know that menstrual cycle is a natural bodily process which cannot be controlled by anyone. This being the reality, women are made to feel that menstruation is unacceptable and unwanted. Women, especially in rural areas of our country suffer a lot due to lack of proper sanitary napkins and hygiene.

As Kofi Annan said-"THERE IS NO TOOL FOR DEVELOPMENT MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN". Women empowerment could be attainable when healthy women reside in a country. The mostly overlooked area is menstrual health.

TAKING THE BLOOD LINEN OUT OF THE CLOSET:.

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE AS A PRIORITY FOR ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY. It is high time to implement this. In some countries, people celebrate MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY on 28th May (initiated by WASH UNITED, a GERMANY BASED NGO in 2014). This year, more than 290 partners, which include NGOs, research & academic organization, joined the menstrual hygiene day to raise awareness about MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT (MHM) in which 5 majorly known companies also supported this new concept namely- AFRIpads, Lunette, Kindara, Natracare, sustainable heath enterprises (SHE). Among rural adolescent girls or women, only 10% girls were using boiled and dried cloth as menstrual absorbent. 64% girls received advice regarding menstrual hygiene from different sources; some of their practices were unhygienic, which is the perfect indicator of incomplete and righteous information which is transferred to their off springs.

A REPORT BY PLAN INDIA AND AC NIELSEN revealed that 88% of women use old fabric, rags or sand to manage their flow, because they can’t access or afford commercial sanitary pads. I personally conducted a survey in which I came to know that most of the women REUSE THEIR HANDMADE FABRIC due to lack of money.

There must be some stands in need of educating the females regarding significance of menstruation, development of secondary sexual characteristics, selection of sanitary menstrual absorbent and their proper disposal.

Some problems which need to be addressed seriously to maintain menstrual hygiene are:

DISPOSAL OF ABSORBENTS: In urban places, routine waste and burning takes place, while in rural settings burying and throwing away in public spaces is a common practice.

HYGIENE DURING MENSTRUATION: Most of the women in rural areas (particularly slums) have myths that regular bathing is harmful during period days.

Menstrual hygiene is significant as it has direct and indirect impact on achieving MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS such as Universal education, Gender equality and improving maternal health.

We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. More efforts are required to achieve the set goal and for the improvement of women health.

Perceptions regarding the menstruation process need to change because this is not something for which women should be criticized or ashamed.

The same people to pray to Goddesses tell the women of their house to stay out every month for 3-5 days. Is not this the heights of hypocrisy? Do they stop praying to their Goddesses every month? Only through proper reforms and movements can this mindset of people change.

If each and every one of us decides to educate one other person about this, the problem will be solved. The solution lies inside us, we just need to bring it out and execute it.