ISSUE: Woman on an average spends a decade of her life menstruating. Women experience pain and lack energy during their periods. Due to cultural beliefs surrounding sexual reproductive health and blood, they face limitations in managing their menstruation as well as their participation in daily live.
Lack of awareness is a major problem in India’s MHM scenario. Indian Council for Medical Research’s 2011-12 report stated that only 38 per cent menstruating girls in India spoke to their mothers about menstruation. Many parents do feel the challenge on how to explain it to their child. Schools also did not have necessary sanitary infrastructure and did not discuss menstrual hygiene with their students.
Lack of information of how to maintain proper hygiene often leads to infections. Since women in India often don’t have access to affordable, good quality sanitary napkins or proper WASH facilities, it is almost impossible to manage their menstruation in a healthy way. And this impacts their personal development, economic status and health. Also in India, 23 million girls drop out of school early when they start menstruating and many of them end up facing acute health problems. The number of menstruating women in India is 355 million, which accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the entire country’s population.
WHY DOES IT MATTER? As per UNESCO which we quote them hereby says “MHM also involves access to health services, positive social norms regarding menstruation and effective advocacy and policies. MHM is vitally important as the challenges these women and girls face during menstruation prevent them from realising their human rights, turning a biological fact that almost all women experience, into a barrier to gender equality.
According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every individual has “a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” of themselves. When you are told that one of the basic biological processes that you experience and cannot control is shameful, it has the potential to lower the value that you see in yourself. Combined with the common lack in understanding of menstruation, this can lead to significant amounts of fear and confusion and have a considerable negative impact on mental health. Article 26 dictates that everyone has a right to education. Without access to clean menstrual management products or places to change and dispose of used ones, many girls around the world miss school during menstruation to try to keep it hidden. Some girls do not even have the option to go to school during that time. This creates a disparity between the educational and career opportunities of men and women, violating Article 2 of the declaration, which says that everyone is entitled to their rights without discrimination based on distinctions like one’s sex. It is unacceptable to allow limitations to be placed on individuals’ access to their human rights based on something that is uncontrollable. In order for things to change, individuals must take action.
Menstrual hygiene rights are human rights, as the universal declaration of human rights states in its preamble that all human beings should be recognised for their inherent dignity. Without good menstrual hygiene management practices this is impossible for girls. Menstrual hygiene rights are connected to the right to non-discrimination, to health and healthy environment, education and work. The right to health is also at risk, as women using unclean cloths without the ability to wash are at greater risk of developing infections.
Effective Menstrual Hygiene Management is also essential to achieve a number of the Sustainable Development Goals including ensuring healthy lives, inclusive and equitable education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation and inclusive economic growth. Additionally, Menstrual Hygiene Management helps to keep the environment clean through avoiding waste and saving water.”