TOWARDS A FRESH AND HEALTHY PERIOD
The country whose Bollywood movies now revolve on sanitary napkins, is expected to attain tremendous progress in terms of hygiene and sanitation. Lakshmi, a newly married welder who causes a stir in his East Indian village tries to revolutionize the manufacturing of sanitary napkins for women. But the sad fact is that even movies like Padman, is doing little to create enough awareness on the use of sanitary napkins, especially in the rural areas and urban slums. Even today, only 12% of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins (SNs). Because of poor access to sanitary napkins, over 88% of women resort to unhygienic alternatives such as cloth, ashes and husk sand. This later adds to incidents of Reproductive Tract Infection and even serious conditions such as cervical cancer. Women who do not use sanitary napkin are 70% more prone to infections in comparison to those who use better hygiene options. The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 report shows that the use of Sanitary Napkins among Indian women is 48.5% in rural, 77.5% in urban and 57.6% total.
In order to bring about increased awareness about menstrual hygiene and promote the use of sanitary napkins among rural women, AWAG initiated awareness workshops in 59 villages of Radhanpur and 60 villages of Patan, Gujarat over a span of two years. A total of 4300 adolescents and women have participated in the Awareness Raising workshops that were conducted in these areas.
Recently, we have initiated the same project in AWAG’s work area that fall in the slums of East Ahmedabad. One such meeting was conducted on 13th March, 2018 with 41 adolescent girls. Through tutorials on menstruation, dialogues and discussion and Q&A, our team workers resolved myths and problems of adolescent girls regarding menstrual health and hygiene.
FACTS AND FIGURES
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
56% of the girls –in and out of school- did not receive any information about menstruation
66% of the Indian girls do not know anything about menstruation before their first period
87% of the women and girls are completely unaware about menstruation and do not have any knowledge about the purpose of menstruation as a biological process
For 23% of the girls in rural areas of India, having their period is one of the reasons to quit school, with irreversible effects
The biggest barrier to using a sanitary napkin is affordability. Around 70% of women in India say their family can’t afford to buy them. Talking about menstrual health is still a societal taboo. Women are barred from entering temples and kitchens at such times. Some don’t even take a bath during periods. Such practices need to change.
Very recently AWAG has launched an App for health and sanitation. This App intends to educate women and girls about menstruation health. It also provides options of chatting with experts through a public chat and even privately. Women can avail low cost sanitary napkins through the App.