Scotland became the first country to make period products absolutely free in order to eradicate period poverty. It’s definitely a policy that will bring relief to all the women who are in their menstruating years but can’t afford products like sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups.
Period poverty and the resulting inaccessibility to period products is a reality for many women in India as well. Recently, the movie Pad Man portrayed the various taboos and stigma around menstruation in our country.
One needs to understand that period poverty is not just about being able to buy sanitary napkins and tampons but also about having access to clean toilets and water.
According to UNICEF, more than a third of girls in South Asia miss school during their periods primarily due to the lack of toilets and pads in schools. What’s more, not many women are educated about menstruation.
1. In India, 71% of the girls in India are unaware of menstruation before their first period.
2. According to government agencies, 60% of the adolescent girls in India missed school on account of menstruation.
3. About 80% of women still use home-made pads.
Clearly, India also needs to take action along the lines of what Scotland has done to ensure that women can have access to their basic requirements and knowledge.
The main concern is hygiene. Not having access to clean toilets and proper menstrual products makes women vulnerable to many reproductive and sexual diseases that aren’t just going to affect their health but also prove to be harmful to the country.
According to UNICEF’s report, poor menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks, having been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Hence, providing the girls and women in their menstruating years with access to clean water and low-cost menstrual materials could reduce urogenital diseases like bacterial vaginosis.
Talking more openly about period poverty will help adolescent girls to understand the concept, learn hygiene measures to be taken and improve their own reproductive health.
Many NGOs like Goonj, along with the government, are spreading awareness about these issues to dilute the stigma around menstruation and enable women to share their experiences with each other. The aim is to make the younger generation more aware of menstruation and help them take steps to prevent health issues.
“Meeting the hygiene needs of all adolescent girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, former UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
We’re hoping India can take active steps to eradicate period poverty and ensure good health for all women.