I am part of a progressing economy, one of the world’s influential economy, yet when I utter the word Menstruation, I observe a kind of barrier between me and audience. Audience is none other than women. Strange right, we call ourselves as urban women, modern women yet a slight discussion about a biological process like menstruation can bring such hesitation among us as if we would want to rush in some corner of the room, hide ourselves or do anything to avoid the topic.
Being a recent menstruation activist, talking to women and girls about menstruation, I have noticed an evident cycle of neglect in our society regarding menstruation. Let’s delve deep in to this:
Homes are meant to be the most comfortable place during menstruation. But is it as it looks? Women at home seldom have any privacy when dealing with menstruation. Whether they are using disposables or reusable cloth napkins, they always feel embarrassed to either dispose them or wash and sun dry them. Changing and maintaining hygiene in common washrooms is a task that hesitates most women or girls.
Schools: Many schools do not support girls or female teachers in managing menstrual hygiene with dignity. Inadequate water and sanitation facilities make managing menstruation very difficult, and poor sanitary protection materials can result in bloodstained clothes causing stress and embarrassment. As a result, girls have been reported to miss school during their menstrual periods or even drop out completely.
Women as such are known to talk endlessly on any topic, but menstruation is an issue about which mums try to avoid speaking with their daughters. I remember when I was nearing the age of Menarche, my mum delegated this ‘task’ to my cousin. Yes, it was just a task so I was aware that something like this could happen to me anytime. This cousin who was explaining me about menstruation was also talking with an embarrassing grin on her face. This whole incident had really left me believing that this is should always be kept a secret. And unfortunately, this is how many young girls are left to believe. Instead they are passed on cultural taboos and restrictions which should be adhered to. The sad truth is, most women may themselves not be aware of the biological facts or good hygienic practices due to lack of communication about it. Men and boys of the house are always kept out of this discussion as it is treated as a dirty secret not meant to be shared with men of households. We women fail to understand that its important men are also informed about menstruation as natural process so they can shed any wrong notions about it as well and support the women of their circles, be it their moms, sisters, wives, daughters, friends or peers.
Another aspect which lacks in this cycle is ease of access to menstrual products or facilities. Though disposable sanitary napkins are a rage in urban society, the rural population is still deprived of them owing to huge cost involved in purchasing them. Consequently, they end up using rags, dry leaves, ashes, or cloth. Lack of inappropriate sanitation facilities (like a private space with safe disposal method for used cloths or pads and a water supply for washing hands and sanitary materials) leads to fear, hesitation, embarrassment and discomfort among women.
Social support: Taboos surrounding menstruation exclude women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life as well as menstrual hygiene services. Such taboos include not being able to touch animals, water points, or food that others will eat, and exclusion from religious rituals, the family home and sanitation facilities. As a result, women and girls are often denied access to water and sanitation when they need it most. Reports have suggested links between poor menstrual hygiene and urinary or reproductive tract infections and other illnesses.
It’s unfortunate that women have to face numeral exclusions because of a natural function of their reproduction organ – Menstruation. However, we are hopeful that with our efforts we will be able to bring some change in society.
Naari is a social entrepreneurial venture founded by Anju Arora. Weendeavour to provide safe and hygienic periods to women and enable them to manage menstruation with dignity. Owing to deep rooted menstrual traditions and practices in society, women often have to face discrimination at various levels in family, society and at work place. Hence we educate them about facts on menstrual cycle, enable them to feel comfortable about their bodies and work on getting away with menstrual myths. Besides, at Naari, we help women chose eco-friendly products to deal with menstruation.