New Delhi: World Bank states that Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) is essential to the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls. On any given day, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating, states World Bank, yet, in total, an estimated 500 million lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health and overall social status of women and girls around the world. To break the silence, raises awareness and change the negative social norms around menstruation, May 28 is observed as the Menstrual Hygiene Day.
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Why May 28 Is Celebrated As The Menstrual Health And Hygiene Day?
The German non-profit organisation called WASH United in 2013 initiated Menstrual Hygiene Day. It is marked on May 28 because on average, women and girls menstruate for 5 days per month and the average interval of a menstrual cycle is 28 days. Hence 28th day of May, which is the fifth month of the year, was chosen to mark the day.
Theme For The Menstrual Health And Hygiene Day, 2023
Every year, the day is marked with a particular theme in a bid to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene management and break the unnecessary taboo and stigma associated with the subject. For last two years, the day is being marked with the theme – ‘Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’, with an aim to work towards the overarching goal – to build a world by 2030 where no one is held back because they menstruate.
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Agenda For Marking Menstrual Hygiene Day
The vision of the day is to build a society where by 2030, it is possible to create a world where no woman or girl is held back because she menstruates. It also aims to create a world where:
• Everyone can access and afford the menstrual product of their choice
• Period stigma is a thing of the past
• Everyone has basic information about menstruation
• Everyone can access period-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities everywhere
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Menstrual Hygiene: India Perspective
According to the national report of National Family Health Survey-5 released by Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on May 5, 2022, in India 64.4 per cent of women aged 15-24 use sanitary napkins, 49.6 per cent use cloth, 15 per cent use locally prepared napkins and only 0.3 per cent use menstrual cups. The report stated that overall, 77.6 per cent of women in India use a hygienic method of menstrual protection. It also underlined the fact that there has been a growth in awareness among women about menstrual health. However, there have been some reports that have highlighted a different reality.
According to ‘Menstrual hygiene practices among adolescent women in rural India’, a cross-sectional study published in BMC (Bio Medical Central) Public Health, an open access journal publishing peer-reviewed contributions, platform that analysed the information on 95,551 adolescent women from rural India from the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) stated that though India hosts about one-fifth of the world’s population of adolescent women, unfortunately, most of them, especially those living in rural areas, typically face many restrictions during menstruation. These restrictions prevent them from participating in many aspects of social life, worshipping, bathing, cooking, and sexual activity. Not just that, the report adds that millions of adolescent girls in India drop out of school every year due to restrictions on mobility, a lack of restrooms and disposal facilities in schools, and fear or shame caused by the odour and stains of menstrual blood. And the situation is further worsened by the widespread ignorance around puberty and menstruation, the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, and the absence of adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, leading to poor menstrual hygiene practices. The report states that poor menstrual hygiene practices may cause reproductive and urinary tract infections in addition to rashes, itching, foul odour, and many other reproductive health morbidities. Poor menstrual hygiene management can also compromise women’s educational and economic opportunities.
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Another study on Menstrual Hygiene practices among adolescent girls in a tribal area of central India published by DMIMS (Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences) School of Epidemiology and Public Health, which was conducted among adolescent girls (10-19 years) residing in a tribal area of Nagpur District from January to March 2022, on an average only 45.17% of girls were aware of the menstrual cycle before its onset. Around 73.79% of girls were using sanitary pads, while 26.21% of girls were using cloth. The most important restrictions imposed on the girls during menstruation were not being allowed to attend religious functions (97.93%), followed by not being allowed to attend classes (65.86%).
Importance Of Menstrual Hygiene
Menstruation is considered a normal and healthy part of life for most women. According to UNICEF, roughly half of the female population — around 26 per cent of the global population are of reproductive age. It states that most women menstruate each month for about two to seven days. Yet, as normal as it is, menstruation is stigmatized around the world.
Experts and researchers have time and again underlined the importance of menstrual hygiene, they feel, when girls and women have access to safe and affordable sanitary materials to manage their menstruation, they decrease their risk of infections.
World Bank states that poor menstrual hygiene can have cascading effects on overall sexual and reproductive health of girls. It also adds that poor menstrual hygiene can pose serious health risks, like reproductive and urinary tract infections which can result in future infertility and birth complications and neglecting to wash hands after changing menstrual products can spread infections, such as hepatitis B and thrush.
World Bank also adds that if menstrual health and hygiene is well managed from the start, it has a surprisingly high potential to contribute to increasing female empowerment at a critical stage of a girls’ life.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 diarrhoea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.