Swasth Kanya

Menstruation is a peculiar phenomenon that nature has planned for women. It is a major stage where women undergo reproductive changes from onset of menarche till menopause. Adolescence in girls has been recognized as a special period that requires special attention. But, menstruation is still surrounded by various psychological and religious barriers due to lack of knowledge about factual process of menstruation. Many ladies residing in backward areas are unaware of what actually happens during menstrual cycle and how it occurs. Although this is a natural process, it is linked with several perception and practices within community, which sometimes results in adverse health outcomes. Hygiene during menstruation is an inevitable part of women’s life. It is during this period a woman is regarded more vulnerable to any reproductive and urinary tract infections and various sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, menstrual hygiene management should be an imperative part of healthcare, and increased knowledge about menstruation right from childhood may escalate safe practices and may help in mitigating the suffering of millions of women. Proper guidance to adopt this good habits about menstrual hygiene is thus necessary for those who are not aware of this and need instructions and awareness.

There will be many people in different parts of the country who still doesn’t hold proper knowledge on menstrual cycles whatsoever and spreading false information or guidelines among the adolescent girls. Especially in rural areas, girls are not prepared and aware about menstruation so they face many difficulties and challenges at schools, home and work places. Unprepared girls then become frightened, confused and feel embarrassed and developed negative attitude towards menstruation. In many underprivileged areas, women do not have access to sanitary products or they know very little about the types and methods of using them or are unable to afford such products due to high cost. Reaching out to this people and enlightening them is essential to promote safe menstrual hygiene in near future.

Surya Foundation has extended arms for many adolescence girls living in a rural and underprivileged areas, explaining them about importance of menstrual hygiene and health care, elucidating every details and clearing their doubts. Also, sanitary pads are being distributed to girls residing in rural and underprivileged areas at affordable prices or for free whom it finds difficult to purchase or those who are unaware about using sanitary pads.

During Covid-19 pandemic, due to scarce supply of sanitary pads especially in rural areas, women had to switch back to unhygienic old methods of managing their monthly periods. After prolonged lock-down in the country, production of sanitary napkins was reduced due to unavailability of raw materials to those factories already involved in the production of sanitary napkins. Women from underprivileged background in cities were unable to afford pads after their incomes were hit. Surya Foundation has started an initiative during this pandemic to distribute sanitary pads to such women and in underprivileged villages; at the same time increasing awareness among adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene and guiding for safe disposal of sanitary napkins in environmentally friendly manner. The distribution of sanitary pads was first carried out in June 2020 in a village of Jharkhand and nearly 11,554 sanitary pads were distributed during the lockdown. Till now more than 6000 girls are being benefited through this initiative.

Along with this initiative of distributing sanitary pads in the village of Jharkhand, girls were encouraged to plant one sample of plant for each sanitary pad to make them aware how important the proper disposal of used sanitary pads is, keeping in mind about environment protection. Appropriated disposal of used sanitary napkins is still lacking in many countries of the globe. Due to lack of menstrual management practices in the world, most of the women disposes their sanitary pads into domestic solid waste or garbage bins that ultimately becomes a part of solid waste. There is a need to spread the awareness about the environment pollution and health hazardous associated with them. Implementation of the modern techniques like incineration can help to reduce the waste.