"My daughter misses her classes when she is on her periods. She is made to sit in a corner of the room as she is impure,” says Jaywantabai, a domestic help, who cannot afford sanitary pads for her menstruating daughter. One can imagine the unhygienic conditions and taboo that can impact the young girl’s mentality, sensitivity, habits and most critically, health.
May 28 is celebrated as Menstrual Hygiene Day and it need not be observed just one day as women across the world over find it difficult to manage their menarche every month. Either cramps, lack of period-friendly sanitation facilities and access to menstrual products, or the embarrassment in getting educated about it — one has to raise awareness about these challenges to solve them and make it a better and comfortable 'period'.
Why hush it up
With approximately one-third of India’s population in the menstrual age group, menstruation still remains a forbidden topic for discussion. By refusing to address it in a direct and forthright way, we disseminate the notion that it is deplorable to refer to it normally, without covert lingo like ‘the curse’, ‘chum’, ‘monthlies’ or ‘in the red’. This shameful and fearsome attitude bears a direct brunt on creating awareness and understanding the issue.
Pune-based gynaecologist and private practitioner, Dr. Ashalata Mhatre, says, “From the genetic or biological perspective, the purpose of menarche of the female is the core of human life. However, the stigma about menstruating being ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’ being inculcated in children make it disgusting and difficult. Besides, lack of sanitation facilities leads to UTI and cervical cancer.”
Nameeta Saigal, Head of Marketing, Nua, intimate hygiene products manufacturer feels that it is essential to destigmatise menstruation as the persisting shame and silence is directly impacting education and awareness on the topic. “In our society there is a culture of silence which is widespread on menstruation. Menstrual hygiene products are therefore necessities, and not luxuries and ought to be treated as such,” Saigal adds.
According to Ishan Grover, Co-founder of SVISH Hygiene, feels women need to be more confident and embraced everything related to menstruation. “It's time women stepped out and confidently shopped for these products. With natural extracts of aloe vera and cucumber for no itching, no odour and no irritation, for protection during menstrual cycle, the intimate hygiene wipes ought to be carried wherever they go. They just need to ask for it without inhibitions.”
Apart from disseminating basic education and knowledge, Saigal asserts, “It is also essential to encourage initiatives to tackle period poverty and ensure distribution of menstrual hygiene products among underprivileged sections of the society.”