Bursting the Myths of Menstrual Health and Hygiene

Menstruation is still considered taboos in some cultures and girls suffer from bullying, discrimination and social exclusion due to this inaccurate social belief. 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality.

It is frequently found that girls are ashamed of talking about their menses majorly due to lack of proper awareness and education. The society has set the rules for them as what they can do and cannot, where they can go or not during their menses. This ignorance and lack of support from parents in families and teachers in school have created a major health breach in their health and hygiene.

Caritas India through its Samvaad, a peacebuilding project has made an entry point into the community through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to address this issue. The project is working in Muzzafarnagar and Saharanpur, the two major districts in Meerut. The peace project focusses on maintaining peace and creating awareness among the community and youths. WASH is seen as a topic to engage the community and create an interactive platform for the project.

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is an integral part of WASH with special emphasis to youths who form an important aspect of the project. The project focusses on engaging youth (adolescent girls and boys) through imparting awareness on puberty and MHM.

The special session was organised for 50 girls from the age group of 11 to 16 years to impart knowledge and debunk the myths that exist around this biological process of MHM. The training was primarily imparted using the combination of interactive activities and discussions on menstrual hygiene. The training resolved queries related to Puberty, Menstruation Biological process, Menstrual cycle, and PMS, Sanitary products – usage and disposal, Myth and taboos, Pain management along with some FAQs and red flags.

A more concerted effort is required to change the social norms in the society. The project animators need to play a more proactive role to liaison with teachers and principals while addressing such sensitive topics. Teachers also need to be trained to garner their support and participation in motivating the students towards a more sustainable approach to address the issue. To bring the holistic change, boys will also be trained through puberty sessions alongside the MHM session for girls to tapping both the gender groups as well as creating awareness and sensitization. In lieu of the above observations, TOT for teachers, Anganwadi worker as well as for Asha workers will be held later this month.