Published: September 2019
Of 355 million menstruating women and girls across India, a large number still face significant barriers to experiencing menstruation in a comfortable, dignified and hygienic way. This is where menstrual hygiene management (MHM), which is about creating an ecosystem that allows for women and girls experiencing menstruation, to do so in a safe and dignified way, assumes importance. It includes awareness, easy and affordable access to feminine hygiene products to absorb or collect menstrual blood, privacy to change the materials for protection, and access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials.
To achieve proper menstrual hygiene, there is a need to address all the above four prongs of menstruation, equally. However, social stigma and misconceptions surrounding menstruation have resulted in it receiving limited attention from community elders, policy makers and development actors in India. One of the major drawbacks of such social stigma is the inaccurate and/or incomplete knowledge about menstruation. At an individual level, this lack of information directly impacts how women and girls maintain menstrual hygiene, with poor hygiene increasing their susceptibility to reproductive tract infections. At a broader level, poor knowledge of menstruation translates into absence of appropriate supportive infrastructure, and a lack of access to safe and hygienic menstrual hygiene products, particularly among rural and economically deprived communities. This is amply demonstrated by the 2016-17 National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS) report which highlighted that overall, only 57.6% of India’s women aged between 15-24 years used hygienic methods of protection during menstruation.
Proper menstruation practices and sanitation, along with infrastructural support for women-sensitive toilets and buildings, can contribute significantly to women’s empowerment as it decreases absenteeism in schools and employment spaces. It can also aid in erasing taboos and misinformation associated with the same, thereby significantly impacting a woman’s feelings of self-worth, and easing the psychological toll of menstruation, in turn making them active participants in the socio-economic space.
Tamil Nadu has long been considered a pioneer in menstrual health management, and is known for being among the first states in India to introduce measures to systematically overcome/combat the lack of awareness about and access to, hygienic menstrual practices. This report seeks to undertake a case study of Tamil Nadu to find the most effective ways to universally promote MHM, with the aim of ensuring access to hygienic menstrual health practices for all women in India. Studying the best practices of Tamil Nadu and how it has achieved its current levels of menstrual hygiene practices, will allow us to make recommendations that can be effectively replicated at a larger scale across other states that fare poorly on MHM currently.
The full report, a policy brief and a MHM plan template for states can be accessed below. For any queries on the subject, please feel free to write to us at [email protected]