During my days in school, I had a huge affinity for science, especially biology but could not completely comprehend the concept of the ‘menstrual cycle’. I grew up in a conservative society where ‘menstruation’ and ‘sanitary pads’ have never resonated outside the four walls. Although times have changed now and some of us like to claim that we live in a modern society, yet an extremely vital aspect of a woman’s health is treated as a taboo. Due to the huge lack of essential information on and unbiased understanding of menstrual health, women and girls continuously get subjected to stigma and unvoiced discrimination.
Today, we watch sanitary pad advertisements on television and read about it in newspapers and magazines, but this information reaches out only to audiences in the urban lower middle class, upper middle class or higher classes. Women living in rural India face greater challenges. In fact a study conducted by an Indian non-profit organisation reveals shocking figures: “Only 12 percent of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins.” Do we know what the rest of the female population resort to while menstruating? Most of them sometimes use newspaper, plastic, polythene bags, paper torn from notebooks, dry grass, dirty waste cloth and several other things that can’t be listed. It is not surprising then that Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) is 70 percent more common among these women.
Menstruation in India is often viewed negatively because of misleading myths and traditional religious beliefs. This makes it extremely difficult for adolescent girls to discuss this natural bodily process with their parents and elders, leading them to believe that it is culturally impure or a serious disease. According to a World Toilet Organisation report, 70.09 percent of women in India had no idea what was happening to them when they started menstruating.
This crucial health issue needs to be highlighted and addressed extensively. We need to recognise the essential need for sanitation during menstruation and help all women citizens to realise the same. CAF India stands in solidarity with the women of India and in association with both our corporate and NGO partners, is working to create a healthier and safer environment for women in the country.