Bhopal: The distribution of low-cost sanitary napkins will not solve the problem of menstrual hygiene. Educating parents and brothers of the adolescent girls is important, because the family support is necessary, says a study conducted by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy (ABVIGGPA) – – a state government think tank.
The study also says that good menstrual hygiene management practices are a direct function of the educational level of the mothers of teenage girls. MP doesn’t fare well when it comes to safe and hygienic MHM practices by adolescent girls and adult women in the state.
The study quoting a study conducted by Amity Business School, Gwalior, it was found that most of the respondents answered that menstruation was a curse from God. According to the field experience report of the field investigators (FI) engaged in this study, the most vital factor for not using the sanitary napkins was the affordability.
Also while analyzing the results of the study it was found that illiterate women and women who only studied till primary school practiced poor menstrual hygiene. 100% of the illiterate females used old rag as an absorbent during menstruation and from those who studied till primary school, only about 8% used sanitary napkins; the remainder used an old rag. 100% of the females with education of middle school and higher used only sanitary napkins as the absorbent during menstruation.
Another incidental yet interesting finding that the study came across is the flow of information regarding better MHMP (menstrual hygiene management practices) isn’t necessarily unidirectional (mother to daughter). In about 14 cases, the study found out that daughters were the primary source of information for less educated mothers, and the new information received by the mother from the daughter was more trusted considering the source of the information and brought about changes in menstrual hygiene management.
The study was coordinated by Dr. Kanika Sharma, Deputy Advisor, State Health Resource Centre. When adolescent girls were asked if they knew of the cause of menstruation, majority of them knew (59.3%) that it was a normal physiological process, 25.6% answered that it is a pathological process and 15.1% considered menstruation a “curse from God”.
When asked about the disposal of the used absorbent, 46.3% of the adult female respondents said they threw it in a trashcan, about 42% (combined) said they threw it outside the house or in drains and water bodies and only 10.3% said they burned it after use.
While the emphasis on the use of sanitary napkins cannot be faulted, its environmental impact should also be kept in mind. According to Census figures, there are around 2.18 crore females of menstruating age in Madhya Pradesh. If each woman uses 10 pads per cycle for 30 years of menstruation, it would mean a staggering 7,000 crore sanitary napkins. Needless to say, it would mean dumping thousands of tons of non-biodegradable plastic in the environment. The state has overcome much of the silence on menstrual hygiene because of movies like ‘Padman’ released this year. Besides that, Bollywood stars launched campaign through Facebook and other social media.