Every year, May 28 is observed as Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day globally, to call attention and normalise menstruation. This year, WaterAid India, along with other development partners, stakeholders, government, and celebrities were involved in various online and offline campaigns. Our offices in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh marked the day with state level consultations and conferences raising awareness on the issue.
Two weeks prior to the Menstrual Hygiene Day, WaterAid India launched an online campaign, Thunderclap, to advocate for better menstrual hygiene. The primary objective of Thunderclap was to communicate the importance of addressing menstruation related taboos and to advocate for the issue to government, donors, and menstruation product makers.
With the key message, ‘There is #noshame in menstruation. Join us on #MHDay in ending the stigma around periods,’ Thunderclap had a social reach of 2,551,147 over a period of two weeks. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Swachh Bharat Mission – Rural (SBM-R), government officials, online platforms like Youth ki Awaz, and renowned faces from the film industry like Twinkle Khanna, Swara Bhaskar, R Balki and Gauri Shinde supported the cause amongst many others.
Pushing the boundaries on the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)
On May 29, 2017, Dasra, in partnership with WaterAid India, RTI International, PATH, Zariya, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and Development Solutions organised a one-day consultation on: Pushing the boundaries on the MHM dialogue in India at India Habitat Centre.
The discussions revolved around access, use, disposal and treatment of menstrual hygiene products in India. The consultation primarily focused on discussing sustainable and scalable solutions for the MHM value chain, from normalising menstruation to product landscape and waste management.
The larger mandate to mainstream gender in sanitation was addressed, of which MHM serves as a critical component. The day-long gathering brought forth knowledge, networking, and an opportunity to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement, comprising of experts, on-the-ground voices, an interactive multimedia, live polling, and product landscape gallery walk.
Week long activities to observe the day in Uttar Pradesh
A weeklong MH Day commemoration concluded in Uttar Pradesh, with a state-level conclave on Sunday, May 28, 2017, at Panchayati Raj Directorate Auditorium, Lucknow. The conclave was organised jointly by WaterAid India & Directorates of National Health Mission (NHM) and Swachh Bharat Mission-Rural (SBM-R) with an objective to discuss and explore the scope of convergent planning and collective actions for promotion of MHM in the state.
Around 500 people attended the event, including key government officials – Alok Kumar, IAS , Mission Director (MD), NHM, Uttar Pradesh, V K Anand, IAS, MD, SBM-R, Neena Gupta, Director General, Medical Health & Family Welfare Department, Arti Srivastava, Joint Director, Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD). Ruth Lascano Leaño, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Lucknow, Surojit Chatterjee, General Manager State Programmes Uttar Pradesh, Neha Chaturvedi, State Manager – Plan India also graced the occasion.
MHM resource materials, like information booklets and Training of Trainers’ Manual, developed by WaterAid and Vatsalya, were released by the dignitaries on the occasion. An exhibition featuring pictures from the field, Information Education and Communication (IEC) material, sanitary waste disposal models, and games and tools for MHM awareness were also organised as a part of the event.
A short video by Vatsalya and WaterAid on model Sanitary Pad Manufacturing Unit at Mahoba was also screened. Twenty-four MHM Champions from various departments and communities were recognised and felicitated for their exemplary work on the issue.
The event concluded with some very positive outcomes and commitments from the key officials –
- MD SBM-R announced that Panchayati Raj Department will establish ‘Sanitary Napkin Manufacturing Unit’ in every district under SBM.
- MD NHM directed the concerned officials from his department to ensure IEC as mandatory component under its sanitary pad distribution scheme. He also appreciated the IEC material developed by WaterAid and Vatsalya, and committed to adopt the same.
- MD SBM (R) also informed that a technical committee will be constituted to evaluate present sanitary napkin disposal techniques and suggest appropriate methods.
- Officials from DWCD and Ministry of Education sought support from WaterAid towards creating an MHM resource pool in various districts.
Extensive awareness activities at Bhubaneshwar
At district Ganjam, health workers along with adolescents and Panchayati Raj Institutions, came forward to express their solidarity towards the issue of Menstrual Hygiene, while at Saroda block home-based women workers and union members discussed about the effects of menstruation and behaviours associated with it at workplace. They also shared their experiences of following various myths associated with menstruation, and pledged to liberate their daughters from all such myths and taboos.
The adolescent girls at Chhatrapur block collaborated with Anganwadi Workers (AWW), Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), and Self Help Groups, and campaigned on the theme of MH Day – Education about Menstruation Changes Everything. Similar activities took place in other districts, Kandhamal and Dhenkanal, as well.
Community outreach programme in urban slums
In partnership with Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), National Alliance of Women (NAWO), and Aaina, community outreach programmes for urban slums were organised.
At NAWO, 60 adolescent girls participated to learn about menstrual hygiene through fun games, quiz competitions, screening of documentary films and interactions, while at CFAR, over 100 community members took part in open discussions followed by a puppet show. A quiz was also organised to clarify the myths regarding menstruation, where the winners were awarded with hygiene kits to be used at household and personal level.
Menstrual Hygiene Day received outstanding media attention, that show the profound impact of all the efforts made in this direction. From news channels to radio as well as newspapers, MH Day was the key spotlight.
Doordarshan (DD) Odiya, a govt. run channel held a panel discussion with educationist, Sonamika Ray and medical professional, Dr. Sarojini Sadangi, to discuss the impact of menstruation on education and health.
All India Radio, and local radio channels like SOA 90.4 FM, Radio Choklate 104 FM, also organised various discussions on MH Day, with the presence of WaterAid’s partner NGOs.
Also, an article written by Mr. Bikash Kumar Pati, WaterAid, focussing on menstrual hygiene was published in ‘The Pioneer’.
Block level meetings and workshops in Jharkhand
At different block levels meetings and workshops were organised in Jharkhand. While in Dumka, a panchayat level sensitisation workshop was held that saw the participation of adolescent girls and frontline workers; in Pakur, an event was organised with involvement of block level functionaries from Health, Education PRI and media.
All the key stakeholders came together and deduced the following action plan –
- It is responsibility of adolescent girls, teachers, and SHG members to disseminate the messages of MHM to all women in the age group 12-45 years.
- Community leaders and PRI members will monitor and ensure availability of sanitary napkins and iron folic acids, as well as free of cost counselling at Community Health Centres (CHCs), Primary Health Centres (PHCs), and other similar centres.
- Senior girls and teachers would disseminate message and try to ensure that no girl faces problems and/or remains absent from school during menstruation. PRIs should play lead role in it.
- PRIs also need to ensure that Sahiya Sathis (frontline workers) are connected with the schools and community.
- PRI should ensure that Sahiya Sathis should be working towards abolition of social taboos by getting associated with community on the issue of menstruation.
Active involvement of faith leader
Md. Hasibulla, Moulana of Khariji Madrasah, discussed the taboos associated with Menstruation. He cited an example of a ‘Lady Doctor’ who could not get houses on rent because the owner feared that she might not follow the rules set by the community during menstruation, like staying in isolation.
Such is the taboo still prevailing in the country. He reiterated that these taboos should be broken down if development of the society is desired. Services related to MHM through counselling, supplementary nutrients (like Iron Folic Acid), and absorbent availability was discussed with girls especially those being given by the health department.
Discussions on MHM initiatives in Chhattisgarh
A state level consultation was organised in Raipur on May 28, 2017, to bring together civil society organisations, government and bilateral agencies, private sector, media and individuals to observe MH Day and promote MHM. Magic Bus also collaborated with WaterAid regional office in Chhattisgarh for the event. The key objectives of the programme were to create awareness about MH Day and to discuss various initiatives on MHM.
The consultation was attended by NGOs and iNGOs, partner organisations, community members of different age groups, Self Help Groups, Panchayati Raj Institutions and teachers. College students from Raipur and media persons also took part in the discussion.
The event started with a discussion on the assessment study carried out by CARMDAKSH in Korba on menstruation-related issues, prevailing myths, health and education impacts, and overall development of girls. This was followed by the screening of WaterAid’s animation film, No Shame in Menstruation. A representative from State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) spoke about the government schemes on MHM and shared that for the last two years implementation had been very poor. Findings of WASH in School Study (done by RTE forum with support of WaterAid) were also shared, that highlighted the gap in School WASH infrastructure and maintenance.
A sarpanch from Durg discussed the role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and importance of sensitisation of male members of the community on MHM. UNICEF, Room-to-Read, Magic Bus and PRADAN shared about their direct and/o r indirect interventions on MHM. Participants discussed about provisioning of sanitary napkins in low cost and appropriate disposal mechanisms.
The consultation ended with the following recommendations:
- MHM should be included as an agenda in the 11 sutras of National Rural Livelihood Mission’s (NRLM) Self Help Group. MHM should also become a part of the Micro Social Plan developed by Village Organisation (village level federation of SHGs under NRLM).
- The state should issue a directive for mitanins (a female friend in English) and aanganwadi workers for participation in SHG meeting and discuss MHM.
- There should be campaigns on MHM like Swachhata Pakhawara under SBM.
- School Management Committees should also be targeted to take initiatives on MHM.
- MHM Champions should be developed as Swachhata Champions under SBM.
- Innovative and local language IEC is lacking on MHM; NGOs working on MHM should develop these.
- Small studies and case documentation should be encouraged to strengthen advocacy on MHM. Colleges should be encouraged to motivate students to do dissertations/ research on MHM-related issues.
- Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), like triggering tools, should be developed for MHM.
- Regular sharing of interventions on MHM amongst NGOs should be promoted.
Core groups at centre stage in Telangana
WaterAid along with its partner observed MH Day at state and district level. In Hyderabad, a meeting was held with key decision makers from state level departments, civil society networks, NGOs, organisations working on violence against women (VAW), adolescent girls, and CSR and media agencies. As an outcome of the meeting, there is an open invitation/commitment from the Director of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) to work jointly and saturate few districts by engaging women from SHGs on Menstrual Hygiene. Similarly, Women and Child Development (WCD) and Health department officials too had given their commitment to take up the MHM orientation on a scale through their networks of ASHAs and anganwadi workers.
In Kamareddy, WaterAid regional office in Telangana’s partner NGO organised an event on MH day. District Collector and officials of Health, Education and WCD were present. The District Collector Nizamabad launched an MHM rally, while the MHM core group shared their experiences where over hundreds of ASHAs, anganwadi workers and others were present.
In Medak & Chittoor, two books were released on MH Day – (i) Good Hygiene Practices during Menstruation, and (ii) Sustainable Sanitation Guidelines for Swachh Villages. The District Collector, and entire district frontline workers were present. The officials promised to implement MHM guideline issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development / Swachh Bharat Mission and District Educational Officer of Chittoor made a commitment to roll out MHM guidelines across all the schools. The key highlight of the programme was the core group girls taking the centre stage, and hosting the entire event, while they also narrated their problems and experiences, related to menstruation, with the gathering.