Women’s Day 2021: Let’s Talk Menstruation Say Girls In This Bihar Village

Women’s Day 2021: Let’s Talk Menstruation Say Girls In This Bihar Village

International Women's Day 2021: In 2016, Population Foundation of India, a Delhi based non-profit organisation, launched a campaign in Darbhanga and Nawada district of Bihar to educate young adults about reproductive and sexual health which paved the way for menstrual hygiene in the district
Bihar, Menstrual Hygiene, Women's Day Special
- in Bihar, Menstrual Hygiene, Women's Day Special
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Women's Day 2021: Let's Talk Menstruation Say Girls In This Bihar VillageHappy Women's Day: Here is the story of Hardiya village of Nawada district of Bihar where young girls are leading a menstrual revolution

New Delhi: 19-year-old Mausam Kumari from Hardiya village of Nawada district in Bihar had always seen her mother and elder sister using any available piece of cloth during their periods and later hiding it somewhere. Often, during the next cycle, they would use the same dirty cloth. It is only in 2016, when Mausam became a part of an adolescent group in her village that she learnt about menstruation and hygiene; she decided to educate her mother, elder sister and the community at large about hygienic practices, how to manage menstruation better and break free of taboos on menstruation.

Also Read: Here’s How France, New Zealand And Scotland Are Aiming To Eliminate Period Poverty And What Can India Do

An Introduction To Menstruation And Hygiene

In 2016 the Population Foundation of India, a Delhi based non-profit organisation, decided to launch a campaign in Darbhanga and Nawada district of Bihar to educate young girls and boys about reproductive and sexual health, family planning, health issues in general, among other things. An adolescent group consisting of 15-18 girls from the village was formed and they would meet once a month and discuss a variety of issues.

Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) materials like message boxes (Sandesh ka pitara) were given to every girl in  the group, which allowed them to raise questions anonymously and openly discuss taboo topics. Menstrual hygiene emerged as an important concern especially when one of the girls stopped coming to the meetings because she had got severe Leukorrhea (thick whitish discharge from the vagina), said Sheela Kumari, Block Consultant at Population Foundation of India.

Also Read: “I Have Never Owned Underpants, So How Could I Use A Sanitary Pad?”

Mausam and other girls questioned Ms Kumari about Leukorrhea and menstruation. Recalling the details, Mausam, leader of the adolescent group, said,

Sheela Ji asked us if we know what sanitary pads are. Honestly, we had seen advertisements for sanitary pads on TV but knew little to nothing about their usage and purpose. Following this, we were introduced to sanitary pads – how to use and dispose of a pad, how frequently it should be changed and the cost that is Rs. 30 for a pack. Sheela Ji also told us that it is not necessary to use a conventional sanitary napkin, we can also use a cloth pad but it should be hygienically prepared and washed.

Women's Day 2021: Let's Talk Menstruation Say Girls In This Bihar Village
Meet Mausam Kumari talking about menstruation in Hardiya village of Nawada district in Bihar

Since almost everyone in the group had financial constraints which meant lack of access to pads, Mausam initiated one of a kind pad bank where every member of the group consisting of 15-18 girls would save Rs. 1 a day to buy sanitary napkins and in turn, take care of their personal hygiene and health. Further talking about how pad bank helped non-members of the adolescent group, Mausam said,

Every month, two of us cycle to the nearest pharmacy which is 4 kms from our village and purchase pads for everyone. Since we buy in bulk, we get a pack of pads costing Rs. 28 for Rs. 25. This way, we save Rs. 3 on every pack and the money is further used to help others.

Also Read: Adolescent Girls In Varanasi Slums Overcome Lack Of Sanitary Pads During COVID-19 lockdown 

Menstrual hygiene management not only refers to women and adolescent girls using clean menstrual products like pads, clothes, or menstrual cups but also having access to safe and convenient facilities to dispose of used products. Talking about how the girls dispose of used pads, Mausam said,

We were told that regular sanitary napkins have plastic in them and ideally they should be incinerated but due to lack of facilities in the village, we should bury them deep. Burning them in the open will cause pollution and throwing them with regular waste would mean changing the location of the waste. Though burying is also not advised but that’s the only option available to us.

Menstrual Hygiene In Hardiya Village: Lack Of Education And Awareness

In the initial days of learning and setting up a pad bank, Mausam’s family was ostracised from the village because of the initiative. Recounting her struggle, Mausam said,

People started coming home to instigate my mother and then my mother would say, ‘What are you doing? Not everything needs to be discussed openly. It’s not like cooking a vegetable and telling the world that I made this dish today. Because of you, we are ashamed of stepping out.’

Also Read: How Did A Jharkhand District End Up Growing 5,000 Trees Through An Initiative To Promote Safe Use Of Sanitary Pads?

Mausam along with other girls kept on visiting people, talking about menstruation and slowly the villagers started accepting them. When a local newspaper covered the initiative, Mausam received appreciation from her brother and father.

There came a time when women from the village started coming to us asking for pads. During the later stage of the COVID-19 lockdown, we procured pads in bulk and distributed them among villagers. At the distribution drive, a man at a tea stall asked for bread. He mistook pads for bread. I don’t shy away from talking about menstruation to anyone so then and there I told him about menstruation and pads, said Mausam.

23-year-old Anu, one of the active members of the group, also shared similar challenges and said, they were not taught much about periods and menstrual hygiene practices in school. In fact, when a chapter on reproduction was being taught, boys were sent out of the class and the topic was rushed through.

We were not told about puberty, hormonal and physical changes, menstrual practices and other things. A school is a place where students learn and grow. It is pivotal for both boys and girls to know about each other’s bodies and growth. But if teachers will shy away, feel ashamed and not talk about something as natural as periods then how will we achieve better healthcare?, questions Mausam.

Anu noted that the lack of knowledge is prevalent across villages. She believes that while they have been able to overcome it to an extent, a lot of girls are still in the dark about these issues.

Also Read: Delhi Based NGO ‘Sachhi Saheli’ Breaks The Stigma Around Menstruating Girls, Celebrates Them For ‘New Age Kanya Pooja’

Strengthening Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram And Getting An Adolescent Friendly Health Clinic

Rishu Prakash, Senior Programme Manager, PFI, Bihar said that in 2016, the team conceptualised the idea of working with young adults in 365 villages of four districts in Bihar. Talking about how the team creates awareness, Mr Prakash said,

PFI works closely with National Health Mission of the government and has developed social and behaviour change packet which has audio video material, comic book and other IEC (Information, Education and Communication) material to create awareness.

Mr Prakash added that in 2018, when pad banks were established and girls were informed about their health rights under centre’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) which targets nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, injuries and violence, among others, they started to see gaps in the healthcare infrastructure of the state.

RKSK is a health programme for adolescents launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It focusses on addressing the health needs of adolescents through a separate clinic for them where their clinical test can happen, young adults are given iron-folic acid tablets, free sanitary napkins, among other initiatives. When children learned about RKSK and started seeking medical help, they realised RKSK is not well implemented in Bihar. Out of the 38 districts in the state, RKSK is fully implemented in only 10 districts. Children would come to us and say, there are anganwadi centres for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers; hospitals for adults but no specific institution for young adults to raise their issues and seek guidance. The girls raised the issue with us, District Magistrate and even state health minister, he added.

Also Read: Women Of Jharkhand’s Simdega District Are Tackling Menstrual Waste By Practising Plastic Free Periods

At the Jan Samwaad (Social Audit) organised at the Sub Divisional Hospital (SDH) Rajauli in September 2018, Mausam raised two issues – lack of information or advice on puberty and adolescent health issues at Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Day (VHSND) and health facilities; non-availability of sanitary pads, especially for girls from the economically weaker groups.

The state government doesn’t provide free sanitary napkins instead under its Kanya Utthan Yojana, it gives Rs. 300 annually to female students of class 9-12 in government schools for the purchase of sanitary napkins. Kanya Utthan Yojana is not specific to menstrual hygiene. In fact, it offers incentives to girls under various situations like clearing class 10, 12, graduation and others. But for sanitary napkins, firstly, Rs. 300 annually is not sufficient and secondly, often girls tell us that they don’t get the money, said Mr Prakash.

Following Mausam’s complaints, an order was given to operationalise an adolescent health corner at the Sub Divisional Hospital (SDH) Rajauli. In addition, a trained Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery (ANM) was deputed to provide counseling services at the facility in November 2018.

The following year, Mausam and young leaders from other adolescent groups advocated for a fully functional Adolescent Friendly Health Clinic (AFHC). On September 24, 2020, an AFHC was inaugurated at the Pakribarawan Public Health Centre of Nawada district. The state government has approved the formation of AFHC in seven more blocks.

We aim to expand our initiative and help as many girls as possible, as every girl has a right to safe menstruation, said Anu.

Also Read: A Startup In Uttarakhand Develops An Eco-Friendly Sanitary Pad That Lasts Five Times Longer Than Regular Pads

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

19,59,54,660Cases
6,30,45,359Active
12,87,22,004Recovered
41,87,297Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 194 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 19,59,54,660 and 41,87,297 have died; 6,30,45,359 are active cases and 12,87,22,004 have recovered as on July 29, 2021 at 4:00 am.

India

3,15,28,114 43,509Cases
4,03,840 4,404Active
3,07,01,612 38,465Recovered
4,22,662 640Deaths
In India, there are 3,15,28,114 confirmed cases including 4,22,662 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,03,840 and 3,07,01,612 have recovered as on July 29, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

62,82,914 6,857

85,913 466

60,64,856 6,105

1,32,145 286

Kerala

33,27,301 22,056

1,50,040 4,164

31,60,804 17,761

16,457 131

Karnataka

28,99,195 1,531

22,592 82

28,40,147 1,430

36,456 19

Tamil Nadu

25,53,805 1,756

21,521 667

24,98,289 2,394

33,995 29

Andhra Pradesh

19,59,942 2,010

20,999 34

19,25,631 1,956

13,312 20

Uttar Pradesh

17,08,313 87

768 30

16,84,790 116

22,755 1

West Bengal

15,25,773 815

11,370 10

14,96,294 811

18,109 14

Delhi

14,36,093 67

573 3

14,10,471 61

25,049 3

Chhattisgarh

10,01,651 164

2,226 164

9,85,905 327

13,520 1

Odisha

9,72,517 1,703

15,765 65

9,51,049 1,699

5,703 69

Rajasthan

9,53,605 30

268 10

9,44,384 40

8,953

Gujarat

8,24,802 28

274 11

8,14,452 39

10,076

Madhya Pradesh

7,91,778 11

130 8

7,81,135 18

10,513 1

Haryana

7,69,828 32

702 1

7,59,499 28

9,627 3

Bihar

7,24,673 76

480 4

7,14,554 80

9,639

Telangana

6,43,093 657

9,314 77

6,29,986 578

3,793 2

Punjab

5,98,947 65

559 24

5,82,102 84

16,286 5

Assam

5,62,731 1,276

14,499 536

5,43,031 1,791

5,201 21

Jharkhand

3,47,049 27

237 10

3,41,686 36

5,126 1

Uttarakhand

3,41,934 60

672 13

3,33,901 47

7,361

Jammu And Kashmir

3,21,026 160

1,139 15

3,15,511 144

4,376 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,05,499 116

953 30

2,01,026 84

3,520 2

Goa

1,70,810 81

1,082 48

1,66,586 127

3,142 2

Puducherry

1,20,627 97

923 0

1,17,912 96

1,792 1

Manipur

95,824 1,003

10,922 120

83,392 871

1,510 12

Tripura

77,788 376

3,861 107

73,177 267

750 2

Meghalaya

63,014 541

5,456 124

56,510 409

1,048 8

Chandigarh

61,943 5

36 1

61,098 6

809

Arunachal Pradesh

47,142 342

4,301 14

42,617 325

224 3

Mizoram

36,407 1,110

11,610 686

24,657 424

140

Nagaland

27,586 114

1,350 34

25,684 78

552 2

Sikkim

25,856 240

3,117 42

22,406 198

333

Ladakh

20,320 6

64 6

20,049 12

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,642 3

41 3

10,597 6

4

Lakshadweep

10,155 6

76 6

10,029 11

50 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,531 1

7 5

7,395 6

129

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