The theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022 is ‘translating increased attention for MHH into measurable action and investment’. While the efforts of the international organisations continue to yield fantastic results, we need to ask ourselves what we can do, as common individuals, for the cause of helping adolescent girls and women manage their menstrual cycles.
Recognising our role in this requires us to understand without a doubt that menstrual health is a human right. A woman’s right to safe and hygienic periods is about gender equality and equity. Lack of means of effectively managing menstrual cycles affects women’s health, their right to education, their right to work and their overall right to life.
The women affected by this are mostly from the rural areas or typically low-income backgrounds. Their contribution to society, though integral, is often overlooked. This lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene products is termed as ‘period poverty’. When we continue to dismiss their rights, we are doing a disservice to the entire society.
There is a huge market for feminine hygiene products in India which ranges from sanitary napkins and menstrual cups to tampons and intimate washes.
Some of the negative impacts of neglecting hygiene are issues like yeast infections and toxic shock syndrome in women. But sanitation facilities and appropriate sanitary products during periods are not always accessible to everyone- either due to lack of education or lack of access.
The process of solving that can start at home. If you are privileged enough to have access to clean periods, then it is your duty to spread the word. You probably have a house help or know somebody who does.
Start by talking to them about what they do and how they manage their lives during their periods. If there is any existing stigma, address that. If they cannot afford the adequate sanitary pads, get it for them or pay them enough so that they would be able to buy it. The health of the employee is the responsibility of the employer.
Another step would be looking around yourself. There are communities in dire need of menstrual health awareness and the supplies for better public health practices. If not the latter, try to provide the former. It does make a difference.
One of the more passive, but significant ways of spreading the word of menstrual hygiene is to do away with the hush-hush nature of it in our homes.
A natural part of the lives of 50% of the population of the world should not be spoken about in restrictive tones. Normalising it for ourselves normalises it for others which ultimately is a huge step forward for the overall cause. It is really a service to the entire womankind to call it ‘periods’ and not ‘that time of the month’.
In conclusion, lack of access to menstrual health and hygiene is a lack of access to the right to a life with dignity. When it affects one woman, it affects all women. Each one of them should be able to take care of her own health with the right means and without shame. And we should do what we can for it.