There is a large amount of stigma surrounding menstruation prevalent in rural areas, which leads to poor hygiene and use of unsuitable alternatives to sanitary napkins. These alternatives include wood husk, leaves, paper, and other such materials that can be harmful.
According to the fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) in 2015-16, half of the women in rural India (52%) do not use hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period. Available data reveals that Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) remains deprioritized due to factors such as deep-seated social gender constructs, cultural myths, and discriminatory traditions.
[Source : dnaindia]
The reasons for this are countless. The first is the mindset of the population; young adolescents are not informed and taught about menstrual cycles and the right way to go about them. They are talked about as a ‘taboo’, and girls are asked to hide talk about the subject from their family—their fathers or even brothers. It is still considered ‘impure’ and ‘dirty’ by the majority.
The second evident factor is the social structure. Rural areas continue to follow a patriarchal system where women’s needs are disregarded and brushed aside. Adding to the stigma surrounding the topic, overlooking menstrual cycles makes it even tougher for them to have access to the appropriate products.
Another factor that greatly impacts the problem is financial viability. Even when all the required products are available, a large number of people cannot afford to buy them. Women are then forced to rely on unsuitable means to get through their cycle.
These are some of the primary reasons why women in rural areas resort to unhygienic means that are more than likely to be unhealthy and damaging. In urban areas, we have the luxury of satisfying not just our needs but even our every want. while others struggle to even gain access to sanitary napkins or other fundamental products. It is high time we start taking initiatives to change this.
Written by : Aafreen Shaikh
Edited by : Prahlad Madhu
Photo Credits : Paul Becker [change.org]