If you’re a woman who has bought sanitary napkins from a medical store in India you must have noticed the hesitation and taboo that revolves around something as natural as menstruation. India has around 355 million menstruating women yet millions still go through a lot of trouble, trauma, and shame during their monthly cycles. According to a report, 71 per cent of girls in India have no prior knowledge of menstruation before menarche and therefore undergo immense feelings of shock, anxiety, and guilt in their early menstrual days.
Study shows, 70 per cent of women, especially from rural areas,s are unable to afford sanitary napkins making them more susceptible to the urinary tract and reproductive tract infections. Around 40% of government schools in India lack separate or common functioning toilets for girls making it impossible for girls to attend classes and participate in events while menstruating. At Aurora Cosmos, we aim to raise awareness about menstrual health and understand the significance of menstruation hygiene
Defining Menstrual Health:
Menstrual health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, during the menstrual cycle.
Achieving menstrual health means that any individual who experiences a menstrual cycle has :
1) Access to age-appropriate biological education regarding menarche, menstrual cycles, and menstrual health.
2) Access to good quality MHM products to effectively manage their menstrual cycles and availability of proper and effective sanitation facilities to maintain hygiene and safe disposal of sanitary products.
3) Access to timely diagnosis and treatments to diseases and disorders and access to effective medicines to cope and manage dysmenorrhea and urinary tract infections.
4) Access to a respectful and accepting environment that does not follow patriarchal norms and discriminate based on gender.
Challenges faced by menstruating women in India:
Despite women constituting half of India’s population, there is a serious lack of education and resources regarding menstrual health. A lot of adolescents experience dysmenorrhea or extremely painful periods which affects their productivity. Young girls start missing school due to menstrual issues which further affect their academic performance. According to a report by FSG, 63 million adolescent girls do not have toilets in their homes.
Using inappropriate methods and supplies can further cause infections of the reproductive tract thereby hampering the overall health. Frequent infections due to improper hygiene or supplies can cause bigger issues like infertility. Poor menstrual health doesn’t just affect adolescents. Working women who do not have proper access to the supplies tend to miss work and lack productivity.
Premium quality MHM products are expensive making it extremely difficult for women from financially weaker backgrounds to afford them. Data shows that almost 88% of women do not have access to proper MHM products forcing them to use homemade products like old clothes, hags, etc.
Period shaming is another prevalent practice in the country. Menstruating women in India undergo tremendous societal pressure because people still discriminate against them by treating them an impure during their menstrual cycles and separating them from the rest of the family and not allowing them in religious and social gatherings thus creating a feeling of guilt and shame which often leads to isolation and depression. Aurora Cosmos is in the process of serving affordable menstrual hygiene products to all those without proper access.
Although menstrual health has gained a lot of momentum in India majorly due to the continuing efforts of MHM companies like proctor and gamble, Stayfree, etc.
There still is a long way to go. These companies when marketing and promoting their products tend to overlook women from low-income backgrounds who are unable to afford their products.
There still is a lot of stigma and period shaming prevalent in society due to which a lot of women undergo tremendous psychological stress. Millions of girls still do not have access to toilets in their homes and there still is a tremendous lack of education regarding menstrual health, its importance, and the impact it holds on the lives of women. It is our responsibility as a nation to provide a more inclusive and educated environment to our women so that they can lead happier and healthier lives.