Given that the subject of menstruation is taboo among most communities, often considered unclean, impure and a curse, girls tend to develop a sense of shame during its natural monthly occurrence. In many cases, not only is menstruation poorly managed with inadequate access to sanitation facilities, many girls are forced into outdoor sheds or seclusion on those days.
To address this vital yet neglected subject, the district administration of Nagaur in Rajasthan launched an innovative campaign on Menstrual Health Management (MHM), adding new dimensions to the ongoing Niralo Nagaur campaign under Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin).
“Around 1,01,360 adolescent girls, both school-going and out of school were oriented on MHM and given IEC kits containing practical tips for better management of the same in around 1,600 schools on 14th February, 2017,” said District Collector, Rajan Vishal.
Importance of MHM
Sanitation and hygiene are an important component in a woman’s life including the need for privacy, dignity, safety and self-respect. Therefore in the process of building a Swacch Bharat, sanitation and personal hygiene needs of a woman have to be addressed through an important component which is MHM, he explained.
Further, it is common knowledge that in India, menstruation and menstrual practices are clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions for women as well as adolescent girls. Also, evidence suggests that the lack of awareness and accessibility to menstrual hygiene (which includes sanitary napkins, toilets in schools, and availability of water, privacy and safe disposal) have affected school attendance and possibly contributed to local infections.
Therefore, in an effort to create awareness and increasing access to the requisite sanitary infrastructure and to break the eerie silence and taboos, the District Administration and District Sanitation Mission of Nagaur launched the MHM campaign. The move is in compliance with the National Guidelines on Menstrual Hygiene Management issued by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India in December 2015, although this is first time it is being undertaken as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) in Rajasthan.
“In addition to enabling girls to better manage their menstruation, the initiative, would also increase their happiness and wellness quotient,” he added. Further, it is likely to strengthen the free sanitary napkin distribution scheme being run by the Medical and Health Department by creating awareness and sensitising adolescent girls about MHM (chuppi todo- sayani bano).
On the occasion, awareness was also build among students about personal hygiene and scientific steps of hand washing (saaf swacch haath – swaasth rahe saath)- before meals and after using the toilet. Under this element availability of soaps in hand washing areas would be ensured in schools and IEC posters depicting proper steps for hand washing would be fixed in the hand washing areas.
The campaign will help eventually lead the district from ODF to ODF plus. Earlier, the CM of Rajasthan had announced that Rajasthan will be made ODF by 2017-18, underlining the commitment of the state government towards cleanliness.
The campaign was initiated in two phases. While Phase I saw training of trainers (TOT) which was organized for nodal teachers (one lady teacher from each school) from government schools in entire district; Phase II involved imparting training by nodal teachers to around 100000 school going and non school going adolescent girls in 1601 government schools.
In addition, to increase involvement of the community, local village level representatives such as Sarpanchs were also trained during the ToT programme. To ensure the sustainability of the campaign, monthly orientation workshops will be organized every third Tuesday in all government schools. Also, girls who are active and well-oriented on this sensitive issue would be appointed as Swachhta Doots (Hygiene Ambassadors), so that they continue to spread the message. The district administration will also honour with a certificate all girls who have cent % attendance as a result of personal hygiene management.
Hygiene ambassador speaks
“After attending the orientation program “Chuppi Todo Sayani Bano” on menstrual hygiene, other girls like me have broken their silence on this sensitive issue and are now discussing menstruation without any hesitation,” said grade 12 student of Government Senior Secondary school in Gawardi, of Riyanbadi block in Nagaur.
The first rank holder in class 11 who has been made hygiene ambassador of her school admits that she and many of her friends had been unaware about menstrual hygiene management and its physiology earlier. She said that initially when the session was taken by nodal teacher almost all girls were very shy and hesitated to clarify their doubts. But soon they realized the importance of the subject, particularly when the teacher started an active interaction using IEC material like banners, booklets and leaflets focusing on safe menstrual hygiene practices.
According to the school nodal teacher, the girls are now comfortable in asking questions and seem more confident than before. They are happy to learn about good menstrual hygiene practices, use of sanitary napkins and their disposal methods, and medical issues that can arise from infections.