Recently, Scotland has become the first country to make period products completely free to eradicate period poverty.
It’s a policy that will bring great relief to all the women who are in their menstruating years but can’t afford products like sanitary napkins, tampons, and menstrual cups.
The recent movie Pad Man portrayed the various taboos and stigma attached to menstruation in our country. The movie is a perfect example of period poverty and the resulting inaccessibility to period products which is a reality for many women in India.
It is important to understand that period poverty is not just only about not being able to buy sanitary napkins and tampons but also about not having access to clean toilets and water.
According to UNICEF, more than a third of girls in South Asia miss school during their periods primarily due to the lack of toilets and pads in schools. What’s more, not many women are educated about menstruation.
“Period or menstruation awareness must be spread among all the women in our country, including the girls when they are around 8-9 years of age. This is due to puberty compliance periods that have started to occur at early ages nowadays. The mother should keep this in mind to educate her daughter about periods and how to manage them. Education must start from two ends — one from school and the other is from the mother. This will help reduce the psychological trauma among the girls,” said Dr. Nupur Gupta, Founder Well Woman Clinic & Director Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurugram.
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Here are some alarming statistics to open your eyes to the policy vacuum that needs to be filled to ensure Indian women don’t have to experience period poverty:
- In India, 71% of the girls in India are unaware of menstruation before their first period.
- According to government agencies, 60% of the adolescent girls in India missed school on account of menstruation.
- About 80% of women still use home-made pads.
India also needs to take action along the lines of what Scotland has done to ensure that women can have access to their basic requirements and knowledge.
Why do we need to take steps to eliminate period poverty urgently?
Dr. Gupta said, “The main concern is period hygiene in India. Not having access to clean toilets and proper menstrual products makes women vulnerable to many reproductive and sexual diseases that aren’t just going to affect their health but also prove to be harmful to the country.”
“The hygienic usage of the pad is very important to avoid any kind of infections and diseases. Like cloth pads are also not bad but it should be used by maintaining proper hygiene like you need to wash it, disinfect it and then use it. While some reuse them without changing it which leads to various vaginal infections later on,” said Dr. Gupta.
“Nowadays, many low-cost menstrual products are available in the market which often leads to skin allergy or fungal infections. If it reaches inside the vagina, it can lead to vaginal or urine infections. It can lead to ascending infections too,” added Dr. Gupta.
According to UNICEF’s report, poor menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks, having been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Girls and women in their menstruating years having access to clean water and low-cost menstrual materials could reduce urogenital diseases like bacterial vaginosis.
Talking more openly about period poverty will help adolescent girls to understand the concept, and may help them learn hygiene measures to be taken and improve their reproductive health.
Many NGOs like Goonj, along with the government, are spreading awareness about these issues to dilute the stigma around menstruation and enable women to share their experiences. The aim is to make the younger generation more aware of menstruation and help them take steps to prevent health issues.
“Meeting the hygiene needs of all adolescent girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, former UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
We’re hoping India can take active steps to eradicate period poverty and ensure good health for all women
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Dr. Nupur Gupta shares some takeaway tips to maintain menstrual hygiene:
- You should take plenty of water and must keep your body hydrated as this improves the immunity in the body.
- Maintain a healthy diet to improve your immunity and to keep the infections at bay.
- Exercise regularly
- Nowadays, there are some intimate wash gels which are available in the market and people have misconceptions about it that it protects you from infections but it is not necessary to use as it is not always helpful.