Menstrual Hygiene – Overcoming Taboos and Misconceptions

Initiated by a German-based NGO named Wash United, back in 2014, 28th May is now observed as the Menstrual Hygiene Day. Even United Nations declared it as humanitarian crisis. In the developing countries, women have limited access to menstrual materials, due to factors like cost, availability and social norms. Not just this, there are many social and cultural constraints as well, and other reproductive health issues. This day provides an opportunity to make the society aware of the MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management).

Dr. Shubham Shree, a well-known social activist, and a public health counsellor by profession, gave her inputs on the importance of the menstrual hygiene. In collaboration with Naaz Foundation, and the Period Society Patna, she was one of the invited panelists, and spoke a few words on the same.

For many years, there have been a lot of misconceptions, myths and taboos in the minds of people, regarding periods. Among many, it is considered as something inappropriate, and embarrassing. Women are often asked to stay indoors and not to indulge in any outdoor activities. Dr. Shubham believes that people shouldn’t be ashamed of something that’s a part of the biological existence. We exist because we bleed. It is the menstrual bleeding that makes a girl prepare towards womanhood, and fertile for motherhood, when the time comes. This is a fact that must strongly be accepted by the society. Menstruation is a process which makes women different from men, but it must not be stereotyped. Women need sensible treatment from men around, whether they might be a husband, a father, a son, a colleague, a boss, a classmate or a friend.

There have been several myths revolving around. Some believe that while being on her period, a woman shouldn’t perform activities like cooking, praying or visiting temples, or going to the store room of their house and touching pickles, etc. The misconceptions have been coming from the ancient times. The times when women had no access to menstrual hygiene. They had to visit a nearby pond to clean up. There was no availability of menstrual accessories like tampons or sanitary pads back then. Women were used to be isolated from daily activities, in order to overcome any medical emergency, as there are several factors involved while being on a period. Factors like fatigue, cramps, low mood, tender breasts, bloating, etc.

In today’s time, things are very different from what they used to be. Nowadays, women are indulged in several indoor and outdoor activities, and it is essential to take care of the menstrual aspect in a smart way. If not managed properly, it can still be a cause for stress. Dr. Shubham stated that there should be an option for special leave grant everywhere, for menstruating women, so that they can manage the symptoms well. A woman can perform any activity during the periods, if she is comfortable, keeping in mind her associated health constraints. If a woman’s body calls for a rest during periods, she should definitely do that, as too much stress against the bodily requirement could result in problems.

 Introduction of safe toilets and disposal at schools, colleges and work place, with pad vending machine could be a well appreciated step to avoid absentee and fear of performance among young women. Awareness and education of safe reproductive health practices and choices can be introduced at high schools for young girls to make them understand its seriousness and complexities.

All in all, the Menstrual Hygiene Day has proven to be an important event over the years, in order to help the society, understand the importance of the MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management), and how it should be treated as a part of the human existence.

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