Women make up half of India’s population. However, this fact still isn’t sufficient to evict gender disparity – an important issue which impacts women’s health, education and workforce involvement. Women have reached the moon, but there’s a huge number of them in the country who still remain confined within the four walls that are built around them after the onset of puberty. Menstruation, a natural, biological process is regrettably, still an impediment to millions of women in our country.
Devaki, a 13 year old living in the outskirts of a village in India, skips 5 days of school every month because the thought of bleeding petrifies her. A more powerful motivator is the fear of the embarrassment she might face at school because she doesn’t have access to proper sanitary products.
There are more than 355 million menstruating women and girls in India, and unfortunately there are a lok of Devakis amongst them – girls who face significant hurdles to a comfortable and dignified experience because of a lack of menstrual hygiene management.
Let’s talk statistics.
- 71% of girls in India have no awareness or knowledge of menstruation prior to their first period.
- School going girls in Jaipur, Rajasthan categorised their feelings about menstruation as 25% shock, 30% fear, 69% anxiety, 22% guilt, and 22% frustration.
- 70% of girls say that their family cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.
- According to a study conducted in 2012, 40% of all government schools did not have a functioning common toilet, and another 40% lacked a separate toilet for girls.
- 63 million adolescent girls still live in homes without toilets.
A girl often looks up to her mother for support, but 70% of mothers in India still consider menstruation “filthy” – further enabling taboos.
While menstruation for many of us is just 5 days in a month, it isn’t that easy for women who use homemade alternatives to sanitary napkins, such as an old cloth, hay, rags, sand, or even ash. An alarming 88%! Menstruation becomes even more difficult for girls with physical or mental disabilities, child laborers and homeless adolescents. Various parts of the country lack appropriate sanitation facilities, not just access to commercial sanitary products .
Lack of proper menstrual practices and poor hygiene are directly linked to fungal infections, reproductive tract infections, UTIs, and even cervical cancer. All of which are can be fought with the right weapons – education, correct information, and access to sanitary products.
May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day, and today, let us vow to do everything we can to reduce the taboo that surrounds menstruation.
Levying taxes on already expensive sanitary products takes them further out of the reach for millions of the 355 million menstruating women and girls in our country. Sanitary products are necessities, not luxuries.
Difficulties faced by women during their period are facts, not fiction. Menstruation is not a disease, it is the sign of a normally functioning, healthy body. It shouldn’t have to be hidden, avoided, whispered about in hushed, shamed tones.
Let’s do our bit to normalise menstruation.
It’s time to shrug off the shame and stop hiding.
It’s time to #BleedWithPride.