Menstruations are seen as a health, social, genderand human rights issue. Menstruations and human rights are strongly related. Rights of Indian girls are constantly denied because of menstruations’ taboos and unawareness: the consequences are gender inequality, poor access to water, impoverished health and illiteracy. In particular, the right of education has been recognized as human right, but in India 23% of women give up school because of menstruation. Women that drop out from schools became dependent on their families’ financial support. This it’s the cause of inequality and oppression which lead to lack of professional employment and social injustice.
The effects of poor menstrual sanitary condition have a huge impact on infections at urinary and reproductive apparatus. If untreated, they can provoke cancer or sterility. It is difficult to convey the importance of the issue, even because most NGOs are handed by man and they not tend to put much importance on the topic. Moreover, Indian old women don’t want to address the issue and most of the mothers have a conservative point of view. This silence over awkwardness of discussion creates a sets of taboos and biases that increases menstrual hygiene misconceptions.
Above all, taboos set out special limits. They exist in many societies to maintain social order: in India taboos create caste-based differences. Taboos are still everywhere, including well-educated people. Notably, menstruation taboos are created by misunderstanding and misconception: periods are seen as unwanted, something dirty and to hide.
In fact, 90% of women during periods are affected by restrictions of every kind: young girls during menstruation cannot enter into puja room, into kitchen, they may not look themselves in the mirrors, avoid certain food and cannot attend guests. In rural ares, girls have to sit separate at menses and they can wash their menstrual cloths only early in the morning, before other members of the family wake up. Religion play a key role in this issue. Hinduism give restrictions on certain activities of girls during periods, Islam gave some kind of restriction on going to the market or take a bath.
Menstruation practices are influenced by culture, individual awareness and socio-economic status. The economics background has a direct influence on menstruation practices, like on the choice among pads or private toilets. For instance, in residential areas, girl adopt napkins and no social restriction occurred. In rural areas, on the other hand, old cloths are utilized and social restriction exists.Menstruation among many communities is culturally prohibited. Most tribal households are below the poverty line. In rural and tribal areas mothers themselves lacks of knowledge, due to socio-economic status. In these poor areas there’s a low acceptability of pads due to irregular supply, lack of awareness, non-availability and poor quality, therefore only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads.Cloth pads are worn in the from leaking onto clothes. After using them for 3\4 times, they can cause girls abrasive wounds the inner tights. Moreover, stains are visible: girls feel ashamed and unclean. The old clothes are washed with a specific stone and dried in dark and unhygienic places that none can see. However, a more safe option can be falanin: it is a piece of fabric, easier to wash and dry then the old cloth.It does not cause skin abrasion nor strains. Falalin is more cultural accepted.In rural and tribal areas, sanitary pads can have disadvantages, like high costs, high frequency of change them, unavailability, fear of strain the toilet and no facilities.Undoubtedly, the importance of sanitary pads gives an higher quality of life and less hygienically infections.Consequently, knowledge regarding puberty should be given by mothers and teachers. Menstrual health should be included in the curriculum at school and in the local health committee, a program of awareness should be conceived and low-cost sanitary napkins need to be provided. Even if the government of India submitted $ 20 million budget for pads, we hope that menstrual awareness in India will be raised soon.
In our organization, HEEALS, we firmly believe that to provide the resources, knowledge, expertise and leadership will help the people and the communities across the states of Indiato use their skills to improve the quality of life, environment, education and livelihood and that of future generations.
We want to ensure that through empowering our local communities with knowledge and education we can begin to eradicate poverty in India.
That’ why we implemented PAD4GIRLS project, giving to girls free pads so they can feel more healthy, secure and more aware!
WASH & MH Intern