New Delhi: Time and again, with the roll out of different menstrual hygiene initiatives in the state of Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has underlined one important thumb rule, “Menstrual hygiene is a fundamental right for girls.”
Today, the state is known for leading the way for menstrual hygiene management in India and is known for many firsts – like being the only state to grant menstrual leave to female students studying in all state universities, under the Department of Higher Education; installing sanitary vending machines in all schools across the state for easy access to sanitary napkins and earmarking Rs 10 crore just to promote use of menstrual cups, an environment-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective alternative for sanitary napkins.
Also Read: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023 Aims To Make Menstruation A Normal Fact Of Life By 2030
Here Are Some Of The Initiatives Taken By Kerala For Menstrual Hygiene Management:
1. Kerala Is The First State To Grant Menstrual Leave To All University Students
Earlier this year, in January, Kerala government announced that it would grant menstrual leave for female students studying in all state universities coming under the Department of Higher Education. Higher Education Minister, R Bindu announcing the decision that time said,
Let the girls relax during the difficult days of their menstrual cycle.
Taking to social media, Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a tweet said: “Once again, Kerala sets a model for the nation. Menstrual and maternity leaves will be granted to female students of all institutions under our Department of Higher Education.”
Also Read: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023: Understanding Menopause And Associated Health Complications
View His Post
Once again, Kerala sets a model for the nation. Menstrual and maternity leaves will be granted to female students of all institutions under our Department of Higher Education, reaffirming LDF Government's commitment to realising a gender just society.@unwomenchief @UN_Women
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) January 19, 2023
Though this move is recent, but the idea of Menstrual Leave is not new to the state. Back in 1912, the Government Girls School in Tripunithura, located in Cochin (present day Ernakulam district), had allowed students to take ‘period leave’ during the time of their annual examination and permitted them to write it later, as per a book “Kerala in the 19th Century”, written by historian P Bhaskaranunni.
2. Kerala’s Green Fight To Get Rid Of Non-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin Waste
In a first, Kerala’s two villages – Kumbalangi in Ernakulam and Muhamma in Alappuzha district have become sanitary napkin-free recently, after menstrual cups and cloth pads were distributed as part of the panchayat-level sustainable menstruation campaigns by the state. And to keep the green momentum going and get rid of non-biodegradable sanitary napkin waste, in this year’s state Budget allocation, the state has kept Rs 10 crore aside especially for this goal.
Announcing the same campaign, Finance Minister K N Balagopal, in his budget speech said,
Awareness programmes and campaigns will be conducted at government level in schools, colleges and workplaces. An amount of Rs 10 crore is earmarked for this.
Also Read: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023: Empowering Women And Ending Period Poverty Is The Goal Of These Young Girls
In 2022, the state also made it to Guinness Book of World Records for its ‘Cup of Life’ campaign, a project that was implemented in Ernakulam district of Kerala and created history by distributing more than 1 lakh free menstrual cups across 126 venues in one day.
3. Sanitary Vending Machine In All Schools
For easy access to sanitary napkins and keep the momentum going for spreading menstrual hygiene awareness in the state, in the most recent move, the Kerala government announced installation of sanitary vending machine in all schools across the state. Announcing the move on social media, CM Vijayan in a tweet said,
The State Government has decided to install sanitary napkin vending machines in all schools across Kerala, reaffirming menstrual hygiene as a fundamental right for girls. This project aims to break taboos, foster health, and empower our girls to soar with confidence.
The State Government has decided to install sanitary napkin vending machines in all schools across Kerala, reaffirming menstrual hygiene is a fundamental right for girls. This project aims to break taboos, foster health, and empower our girls to soar with confidence!
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) May 16, 2023
4. The Famous ‘She Pad’ Campaign That Gave Access To Free Sanitary Pads
Kerala has a track record of priortising menstrual hygiene and to empower the girls. Back in 2017, the government launched a ‘She Pad’ scheme in the state to ensure menstrual hygiene among girls studying in classes 6 to 12. The government in collaboration with the local self-help groups started giving free sanitary pads in all the senior secondary schools of the state.
Also Read: Is It Time For India To Have A Menstrual Leave Policy?
Kerala’s Menstrual Hygiene Statistics Show How These Campaigns Are Working For The State
According to last available data on Menstrual Hygiene – National Family Health Survey 5, covering 2019-2020, in Kerala women’s use of hygienic means of menstrual protection – sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups – increased from 90 per cent during NFHS-4 to 93 per cent in NFHS-5. The report stated that sanitary napkins were majorly used method of menstrual protection in the state and use of a hygienic method, among Scheduled Tribes was at 86.1 per cent and Scheduled Castes was at 88.1 per cent.
According to Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) Plus 2021-22 report, though dropout rates for girls are higher than for boys at all levels all across India, except in Kerala. As per the report, not a single student dropped out in Kerala between 2020-21 and 2021-22. Experts feel that good menstrual hygiene practices have a direct relationship with education in the state, as when an educated girl does become a parent, her own children will almost certainly be as educated as she is. This results in a virtuous cycle of fewer newborns, who have access to better basic health services, better education and higher per capita income.
World Health Organization also highlights the link between the two and states that adequate menstrual hygiene facilities with free hygiene products and timely education for boys and girls on menstrual health are crucial school interventions to ensure health, well-being and equal learning opportunities can lead to positive changes and uplift the status of girls in the society.
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.