Aditi Panda

28th May is celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day worldwide. Let us all join hands to enlighten our girls on correct menstrual hygiene and proper disposal methods to stay healthy.

“Now you are a big girl so you cannot play. Sit in the house”.” Don’t enter the pooja room now”. Our daughter has attained puberty so we have organised a function, please do come”. You should not step out of the house till you have periods “. So many DOs and DONTs!  A girl has to meekly follow a barrage of commands as soon as she is on the threshold of menstruation. Albeit the picture has changed considerably, the bottom line is identical.

Menstruation is a very natural and life changing course in the body and a stepping stone for every girl from adolescence to womanhood. But ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management ‘was, yes earlier’ a hush- hush subject of discussion among women and sometimes even between mother and daughter .Today the change is evident, however it’s crucial for every girl to have precise knowledge about menstrual hygiene for staying healthy and getting ready for a hassle free reproductive phase later in life.

Long-standing Taboos and Myths

Traditional norms and religious taboos on menstruation are prevailing in the society since long but a few are widespread even today. Restrictions were imposed on the women but times were different then as they were confined to the four walls of their homes. But today the women are walking shoulder to shoulder in every walk of life and she cannot be curbed down with these absurd rules.

“Earlier the older women told the younger one that during their menstrual cycle they should not bathe or they will never be able to become a mother or touch a pickle jar which will be spoilt. The women had to stay in a separate room all through those days. It’s so silly that all members automatically understood the reason of this confinement which the elders did not realise” says Rashmita Nayak.

“During those four days girls were not allowed to attend weddings or any religious ceremonies. Mundane things like not entering the kitchen, milking the cow, worshipping the Tulsi plant were not allowed to the women, forget about going out of the house. The most embarrassing thing was the party given to the community and telling the whole world that their daughter has attained puberty. Even today this custom is followed in many places, but the percentage has reduced”, informs Archana Bohidar.

Health Risks

The girls are susceptible to several health risks because of many factors involved. insufficient knowledge, poor sanitary materials, inadequate water and shyness leads to different health hazards and infections in this tender age where the girls are struggling between the physical, emotional and social change in their life.

Sneha Dhal teaching in a government school confides,”Even today the facilities in school are lacking and girls remain absent from school in those days. The girls have to sit for long hours without changing as there are toilets but no running water. The concept of sanitary napkins is very less and parents cannot afford them. The risk of using cloth which is not cleaned properly is the biggest cause of infections .The girls are shy and do not share their problems with us, which makes the situation even more difficult”.

 Sanitary Hygiene

It’s natural for girls staying away from school during these periods because the schools are not able to give them the comfort and sanitary facilities. “It’s odd to face the boys in the class and they throw knowing looks at us. It’s very embarrassing to move freely or go to the washroom several times and the tension of stains is always on the mind .The school should provide free sanitary napkins in school which will be helpful”, hopes Kabita Behera, studying in class 8th.

 Disposal management

Appropriate disposal management is one area where more awareness is needed. “The girls and women have no idea of how to dispose the sanitary napkins. It’s important that the cloth they use should be washed, cleaned with proper soap and dried in a clean place before using it again. More over the disposal of used napkins also has to be explained by showing them practically. This will reduce many health problems and its bad repercussions on the environment at the same time”, shares Lokapriya Behera working in the Health department.

(Aditi is a freelance writer and pursues interest in the area of social issues)