The recently concluded Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) India Summit 2019 held in the national capital came out with a set of recommendations that included a ban on sanitary products that cause harm to women’s health and the environment while promoting eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products.
Organised by Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli based NGO – Gramalaya, the event held in New Delhi on 26th and 27th September, 2019 saw the participation 180 participants from 75 NGOs and social enterprises. They represented organizations such as Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NIRD-Hyderabad, UNICEF, PATH India, WSSCC, India, WASH United; MHM specialists, Medical practitioners, Research Institutions, Healthcare consultants, vendors of menstrual products, and suppliers.
Recommendations: The Summit recommended that the Government ban the use-and-throw sanitary napkins which are harmful to women’s health and the environment. Without a ban on single use plastic sanitary napkins, such menstrual waste cannot be curbed in the country. In this regard, the Government’s menstrual waste management policy requires attention on a war footing, it said.
Calling for the support of MHM volunteers and other stakeholders to support eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products, the declaration advocated the need for education on MHM and personal hygiene during periods, and inclusion of the same in school curriculum – both in the rural and urban areas.
In addition, girl friendly school toilet complexes were recommended to reduce absenteeism during menstruation days and to prevent drop outs. Ideally, families should support girls and women during their periods, helping them overcome difficulties.
The event: Business entrepreneurs and start ups exploring MHM related initiatives chose MHM India Summit 2019 as a valuable platform to showcase, network and promote their eco-friendly products and services.
Dignitaries present at the event included Mr. Sujoy Majumdar, WASH Specialist, UNICEF India, Dr. Archana Patkar, Global Thought Leader – MHM, Ex Head of Policy at WSSCC, Ms. Sneha Shergill, Mrs. India 2016, Brand Ambassador for MHM, Gramalaya, Mr. S. Damodaran, President – MHM Summit India 2019, CEO, Gramalaya, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh and Dr. Surbhi Singh, Sachhi Saheli.
As far as resource persons were concerned, they comprised 46 speakers who were MHM experts and champions who promoted menstrual hygiene.
Other highlights of the event were a Nukkad Natak by the Padbank, UP team and a one-of-a-kind eco-friendly pad making demonstration and pad making experiential workshop conducted by Ms. Lakshmi Murthy, Founder Member, Jatan Sansthan.
It is sadly the case that people in rural India are not fully aware of menstrual hygiene as menstruation is steeped in age old customs and traditions such as: those who are menstruating cannot enter the house or touch pickle, etc. Further, in the absence of menstrual products, they use material like jute, soiled cloth, etc. as pads. Lack of knowledge on proper disposal of used menstrual products adds to their vulnerability.
During the closing session, Gramalaya conferred awards for MHM Excellence to individuals and NGOs working in the field of MHM and eco-friendly alternatives.
Gramalaya: Thus far, Gramalaya has supported 12 villages in Tamil Nadu, providing them with 100% reusable cloth pads and 100% toilet coverage to stop the practice of open defecation. ATK Nagar, Uppilikudi panchayat of Kunnandarkoil Block in Pudukottai District of Tamil Nadu is the only village where all women and adolescent girls use reusable cloth pads. As a result, there is no menstrual waste.
Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen, ODF plus parameters include regular availability and usage of toilets, management of solid and liquid waste, cleanliness of water resources, maintenance of public and household toilets and awareness on personal hygiene including MHM (menstrual hygiene management).