The Importance of Menstrual Health Education in India

Menstrual Health Education
Team ujaas

Women in India face immense challenges on a daily basis, both social and financial. There are specific expectations from women, and they are expected to duly adhere to these unconditionally and completely. That said, another significant problem area for Indian women is their health as well as the infrastructure that is in place. For example, women’s menstrual health is indispensable to leading a healthy lifestyle. Women encounter major health problems and often ignore these because of several reasons, such as economic constraints, social taboos or stigmas, and on account of relegating their health to the end of the priority list. Hence, there are no two ways when it comes to the importance of menstrual hygiene

Ujaas, which is a menstrual health and menstrual hygiene initiative by Aditya Birla Education Trust, aims to create a positive as well as a sustainable impact on the menstrual health landscape in India.

In this blog post, we shall discuss the importance of health education on menstrual hygiene and how it is a key precursor in playing a part in putting an end to period poverty. We shall also discuss how a lack of understanding can lead to a dangerous stigma and how such a stigma can lead to women not completely understanding their bodies.

Lack of Understanding and Awareness Creates a Stigma

In India, menstruation has a certain stigma that is associated with it. Numerous women relate their period with feelings of shame, secrecy, and discomfort because of societal pressure not to talk about menstruation. Hence, menstruation is still viewed as an uncomfortable and taboo topic even though one-quarter of the world experiences it each month. These stigmas have been eventually passed down through generations, thus intertwining themselves in the culture of the societies. In more traditional regions of India, periods are viewed as both taboo and impure. Hence, health education on menstrual hygiene is the need of the hour.

Misconceptions Surrounding Periods

Without adequate menstrual hygiene health education, this stigma is bound to continue, thus further fuelling period poverty. Certain misconceptions and harmful ideas surrounding menstruation that originated many centuries ago will continue to be prevalent in conversations about menstruation. These misconceptions have been successfully ingrained in society to an extent where active learning and discussions on menstruation are needed to reverse the stigma around it. Ujaas, which is Aditya Birla Education Trust’s menstrual health and menstrual hygiene initiative, aims to put an end to period poverty.

Lack of Education Leads to Women not Understanding Their Bodies

It is of paramount importance to manage one’s period in a hygienic and safe manner. That said, secrecy and stigma surrounding periods lead to a lack of conversation and understanding of the basics of periods.

The United Nations concluded that numerous girls do not have an accurate and complete understanding of menstruation. On the other hand, World Vision found that in India, only half of the girl population have adequate knowledge about menstruation before experiencing their first period. Menstrual hygiene health education is essential for girls so that they efficiently manage their menstrual hygiene. During the process of experiencing their first period, it is vital that girls are in a suitable position where they understand the science behind menstruation and obtain the resources to manage a period effectively.

Health Complications

Mismanagement of periods can eventually lead to numerous health complications , including general discomfort with soreness and swelling. In highly extreme cases, infections such as UTIs (urinary tract infections) may occur. These potential health complications may eventually make these women more prone to infertility.

A lack of menstrual hygiene awareness can prove to be physically harmful to menstruators. Unsafe and improper methods may be eventually passed down through generations. Girls may choose to opt for alternatives and improper ways of management (which may be unclean or unsafe for themselves) such as the usage of unclean cloth or leaving the sanitary pads in for too long. Although cloth can be quite safe, it must be washed and cleaned thoroughly. That said, they are often used in dirty conditions because girls are highly embarrassed to wash and hang them suitably on account of the shame and secrecy that surround menstruation.

Impact on the Environment

It is a fact that in India less than 18% of women use sanitary pads. Despite this abysmally low percentage, urban India witnesses around 58 million pads being discarded each year, thereby leaving cities choked with non-biodegradable menstrual waste. Organisations such as Ujaas are distributing sanitary pads in rural areas. That said, menstrual hygiene is much more than a public health issue because the socio-economic consequences that women encounter are extremely complex.

Impact on the Education of Adolescent Girls

Because of a lack of clean toilet facilities in schools, a significant number of girls drop out of school after they reach adolescence. This is the most crucial time when it comes to managing menstrual health. Due to an absence of adequate facilities, menstruators are forced to stay back at home rather than attend school. What’s worse, they find it extremely difficult to go back as they grow older because of socioeconomic issues.

The Bottomline

Menstrual hygiene awareness is vital to successfully breaking the cycle of the harmful stigma that is deeply ingrained in our society. Moreover, it is extremely important to permit women to effectively manage their menstrual cycles in a manner that is hygienic and safe. The importance of menstrual hygiene education cannot be overstated because it plays a primary role in reducing period poverty . After all, education is the first step when it comes to emphasising the indispensability of adequate facilities and products to manage one’s period.

On a brighter note, things are surely changing slowly for the better. People’s attitudes have shifted to being much more open to a meaningful conversation regarding menstruation, but there is still a high volume of work to be done, with the grim statistic that only 36% of women in India have access to menstrual hygiene products presently.