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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 247-248

Menstrual hygiene management in India: An unsolved challenge

Department of Paediatrics, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission15-Dec-2022
Date of Decision19-Dec-2022
Date of Acceptance24-Dec-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Latika Bhalla
Senior Adolescent Specialist, Sir Gangaram Hospital, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmrp.cmrp_133_22

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How to cite this article:
Bhalla L. Menstrual hygiene management in India: An unsolved challenge. Curr Med Res Pract 2022;12:247-8

How to cite this URL:
Bhalla L. Menstrual hygiene management in India: An unsolved challenge. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 5];12:247-8. Available from: http://www.cmrpjournal.org/text.asp?2022/12/6/247/366168

The adolescence phase encompasses physical, psychological and social growth from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence refers to the period of life between the ages of 10 and 19 years. In early adolescence, most girls experience their first menstrual period. This phase is also associated with rapid changes in secondary sexual characteristics and body characteristics, such as height and weight. Education, health, leadership and participation in the workforce continue to be critical issues for women and girls in India due to the issue of gender inequality and disparities. Census 2011 shows that literacy rates for females (65%) are significantly lower than those for males (82%).[1]

According to the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report-2021, India ranks 132 out of 191 countries on the global Gender Inequality Index. It trails less-developed Asian countries like Bangladesh, which ranks 129.[2] Hygiene and health are the two main components of menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Hygiene elements include using clean and hygienic materials to absorb or collect the menstrual product, having access to facilities with water and soap in toilets, the ability to change materials in privacy (secure area) and the ability to dispose of used materials appropriately. In addition, health elements include understanding what is normal and what is not during menstruation and seeking help if any abnormalities occur. Only 53% of 14,724 government schools had separate and usable toilets for girls, according to a recent survey.[3]

According to the National Family Health Survey 2019–21 reports, 72% of Indian women in rural areas use hygienic methods of protection, including sanitary napkins, and 89% of Indian women in urban areas use them.[4] Gender inequality and other issues worldwide increase the problems and challenges faced by adolescent girls. There are approximately 355 million menstruating women in India, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the population.[5]

In India, menstruation hygiene management continues to be a matter of gender disparity across all states. There are many myths surrounding menstruation, especially in low-education states and rural areas, which cause girls and women to drop out of school or college very early. Due to a lack of MHM facilities, including the availability of hygienic products and separate washrooms for girls, nearly 23 million girls drop out of school/college each year.[5]

Gender inequality and related issues are significantly different across all states, large and small, regardless of their size, in terms of women and girls' future in India. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the following five Indian states are nearing gender parity: Meghalaya, Goa, Mizoram, Kerala and Sikkim. According to research and census data, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar are significantly worse off in terms of gender equality than other states.[6]

Women and girls face several taboos about menstruation in many societies, especially in rural areas, which affect their physical, emotional and mental well-being. For example, not entering the prayer room and kitchen and not bathing during menstruation can result in poor hygiene practices and reproductive tract infections. Several local traditions hold that menstruating women and girls are unclean and unsanitary, and so the food they prepare, handle and serve can become contaminated.

In accordance with the World Bank framework, youth transition is examined through three lenses.[7] The first lens is broadening opportunities for young people by encouraging better education and skill development, as well as using these skills productively. The second lens is to provide them with resources so that they can make wise decisions in pursuing those appropriate opportunities. Third lens: providing them with second chances to rectify wrong decisions, whether their own or others'.

A woman's menstrual waste includes cloth, disposable sanitary napkins, tampons and other materials used to absorb secretions during her menstrual period. Managing menstrual waste in a manner that is safe for both users (girls and women) and the environment (in terms of sources) is important. It is imperative that both the government and civil society work together at the national level to improve the quality of life for women. Not only should girls and women be educated and made aware of MHM but also their counter partners, males and caretakers, to provide them with affordable and easily accessible menstrual products, provide them with a safe and clean place for changing, wash in soap and water facilities and dispose of menstrual waste during their period. To accomplish this, a sustainable approach to communication would be necessary to implement the policies and programmes at the community level.

The scope of MHM consists of the following areas: empowering women through education, developing leadership skills and increasing their involvement in decision-making, providing comprehensive reproductive health services to women, campaigns for community-based health education, strengthening health awareness of menstruation hygiene, the availability of facilities for washing and sanitation and the provision of low cost, readily available sanitation pads for all beneficiaries.

  Conclusion Top

There is a need to strengthen MHM and policies at the community level in India. The policies must be sustained with education on awareness, access to hygienic absorbents/products and disposal of MHM items. An adequate supply of sanitary napkins and adequate facilities for sanitation and washing should be provided with a gender perspective, with a focus on rural areas. Last but not least, this is the best time to acknowledge the need to break the silence surrounding menstruation and to include men as active participants in the conversation about women's health and quality of life.

  References Top

Literacy in India [Internet]. Literacy Rate of India - Population Census 2011. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://www.census2011.co.in/literacy.php.  Back to cited text no. 1
Nations U. Documentation and downloads [Internet]. Human Development Reports. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://hdr.undp.org/data-center/documentation-and-downloads.  Back to cited text no. 2
Menstrual Hygiene Management - CCRAS [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: http://ccras.nic.in/sites/default/files/Notices/16042018_Menstrual_Hygiene_Management.pdf.  Back to cited text no. 3
National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: http://rchiips.org/nfhs/factsheet_nfhs-5.shtml.  Back to cited text no. 4
Written By: Saptarshi Dutta | Edited By: Sonia Bhaskar |. 23 million women drop out of school every year when they start menstruating in India [Internet]. NDTV. 2018 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/23-million-women-drop-out-of-school-every-year-when-they-start-menstruating-in-india-17838/.  Back to cited text no. 5
Woetzel J, Madgavkar A, Gupta R, Manyika J, Ellingrud K, Gupta S, et al. The power of parity: Advancing Women's Equality in India [Internet]. McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company; 2019 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/the-power-of-parity-advancing-womens-equality-in-india.  Back to cited text no. 6
World Bank [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/556251468128407787/pdf/359990WDR0complete.pdf.  Back to cited text no. 7


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