Menstruation in India

Universally, women and adolescent girls experience menstruation. Commencement of menstruation is the sign of healthy adolescence, yet it is predominantly considered shameful, indicating implicitly that it is impure, unpleasant and has to be dealt with secretively. In India, menstruation has been shrouded in myths and taboos, directly resulting in lack of awareness and issues of accessibility and affordability.

Most times, adolescents discover and adapt to menstruation on their own, without
sufficient information on their menstrual cycle, bodily changes, reproductive health and hygienic practices. The lack of understanding and awareness among them perpetuates questionable cultural practices, resulting in psychological, physical and social ramifications.

Only 36 per cent women have access to healthy menstrual hygiene practices in the
country, according to Menstrual Hygiene Alliance, India. (January 2018). One of the primary issues responsible for stigma around menstruation is lack of knowledge about healthy menstruation practices. Often, when health education is delivered, it focuses on reproductive issues and family planning, while MHM/puberty is
neglected.

The current areas of focus for MHM are seen as the need for dignity and privacy, on
raising awareness to break the silence and stigma, making safe and effective MHM
absorbents accessible, and improving the school WASH environment. Prevalence of pre-menarche awareness has been pegged at 48 per cent in India among adolescent girls.

One of the primary reasons why a natural, biological phenomenon which half the
world’s population experiences, is a subject of taboo is because of lack of awareness and the stigma that comes with having to discuss menstruation. Numerous studies report girls being caught unawares by menarche, and their subsequent feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, dirtiness and anger.

Why are we talking to women about periods?

  • To create safe spaces that enable conversations around Menstrual Hygiene
    Management through awareness and behavioural change
  • Having multiple touch points with participants over a period of time to instil active consideration of good practices and behaviour
  • To instil the ability in participants in making informed choices with respect to practices, products and behaviour
  • Facilitating participatory sessions through activities, stories, analogies, anecdotes, games and tools, to ensure that menstruation becomes a more comfortable, normal subject to discuss and reduce taboo