Women spend around six to seven years of their lives menstruating. Yet the importance of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is mostly neglected. Menstrual hygiene is a taboo subject; a topic that many women are uncomfortable discussing in public. This is compounded by gender inequality, which excludes women and girls from decision-making processes. Seventy percent of mothers consider menstruation ‘dirty’.
WaterAid India recognises that menstrual hygiene is fundamental to the dignity and well-being of women and girls and an important part of the basic hygiene, sanitation and reproductive health services to which every woman and girl has a right.
We make efforts towards embedding measures within the system to promote menstrual hygiene, and give women and girls the confidence and space to voice their need for improved menstrual hygiene. Our work focusses on integrating menstrual hygiene management into programmes and policies across key sectors including WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), health, women and girls development, education and rights, from community to the national levels.
In India, recently, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of menstrual hygiene. Ministries recognize that MHM can improve young women’s health, nutritional status and well-being, as well as their school enrolment and retention, potentially conferring long-term health, social, and economic benefits.
Our approach is to promote awareness among the girls and women and their families and introduce new, low cost, locally appropriate simple solutions. Our work includes:
- Access to information to understand the menstrual cycle and how to manage menstruation hygienically;
- Promote better awareness amongst men and boys (father, husband, teachers, brothers and peers) to overcome the embarrassment, cultural practices and taboos around menstruation that impact negatively on women and girls’ lives;
- Adaptation of existing water, sanitation and hygiene services, to ensure their appropriateness to include water for washing clothes used to absorb menstrual blood and having a place to dry them and having a private space to change;
- Access to hygienic clothes or disposable sanitary pads;
- Facilities to hygienically dispose off used clothes and pads; and
- Training and sensitising key stakeholders (district-level health and frontline workers) to embed MHM within their programmes.