- Maharashtra launched the Menstrual Hygiene Management programme in November
- In its first phase in Sangli, 85,000 girls will be covered
- A buddy system in schools will see knowledge transfer on menstrual hygiene
New Delhi: The lack of access and awareness on issues of health and hygiene has been a deterrent in India’s progress since independence. Central and state governments continue to push programmes and schemes across to ensure that the basic health and hygiene becomes better. Menstrual hygiene is one such basic concept, the understanding of which is highly necessary for women of menstruating age. In terms of numbers, displaying a gross lack of sanitary awareness. Amidst such dire scenario, the launch of a menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in Maharashtra’s Sangli comes as an optimistic and brave move on behalf of the district administration.
In a country, where menstrual hygiene is not a priority, given that only 12 per cent of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins and the rest 88 per cent use anything between unsanitised cloth to ashes, Sangli brings in a welcome change. This district in Maharashtra aims to reach out to over 85,000 girls in the first phase and later extend the programme to cover an estimated 40 million households throughout the state, to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene.
As a part of the programme, schools and Anganwadis in the district have been roped in and representatives from the district collector’s office, department of water and sanitation and
UNICEF will visit these schools twice a month to conduct awareness programmes on menstruation. Workshops will be conducted where girls will taught about menstruation, usage of sanitary napkins, how to discard a sanitary napkin post usage and the myths and taboos related to menstruation. A core group having experienced trainers will train individuals, who in turn will go to schools, health centres and Anganwadis to teach women about menstrual hygiene.
We welcomed the decision to launch the first phase of the programme at Sangli. Menstrual hygiene is very important and the awareness related to it must be built gradually. It was a proud moment for the district to be a part of such a historic programme, said a district official.
The programme is a joint venture between the Departments of Health and Education, government of Maharashtra, Swachh Bharat Gramin, UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Ministry of Women and Child Development. The programme aims to sensitise women on menstruation, promote the usage of sanitary napkins and their disposal and bust myths prevalent with menstruation. The programme coordinators will also coordinate with village level health, sanitation and nutrition committees. All the 699 gram panchayats in 10 blocks of the district will be covered by the programme.
Additionally, the programme will also have a buddy system where immediate seniors in schools will engage in discussions on menstruation with their juniors. This knowledge transfer session will ensure that schools become an active space for healthy discussions on menstruation. Coordinators of the programme are hopeful that discussions on menstruation in school will sensitise students about sanitary napkins and their safe disposal and they can spread and practice the same at homes.
The programme is targeting schools primarily because menstruation is still considered a taboo subject in many schools and neither teachers nor seniors engage in discussions related to menstruation. This programme is looking to change that perception, said Deepali Patil, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad, Sangli.
As per data from UNICEF, a mere 13 per cent girls between age 11 and 19 are aware about safe menstrual hygiene practices in Maharashtra. The dropout rates in rural Maharashtra for girls during their menstrual cycle is an astounding 60 to 70 per cent. Years of stigma has reduced menstruation to a rarely discussed subject and something that is considered dirty and the burden of this ‘impurity’ is borne by many girl students across Maharashtra. The MHM programme launched by Maharashtra is a step in the right direction towards not only educating people about menstrual hygiene but also getting rid of the stigma and taboo associated with it. It is now time for other states to take the cue and spread this movement nationally.