By: Shweta Singh | Project Manager | Maitri
Menstrual Hygiene is an issue mostly affecting the social, psychological and physical well-being of Adolescent girls. Though, a natural biological process, it is surrounded with stigmas, stereotypes and social taboos. A girl goes through drastic transformation physically, which is natural, however the rigid and age-old social pressure and family prejudices, negatively starts shaping up their own mind-sets regarding menstruation. This becomes a part of their social conditioning which she accepts as very normal, and passes it on to next generation and to next, resulting in a series of ongoing regressive mind-sets.
Maitri’s initiative around Menstrual Hygiene Day aimed:
- To increase awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
- To increase access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas.
- To ensure safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.
When we, interacted with the girls in our area of work i.e., J.P Colony, Sonia Vihar, most of the school going girls showed awareness regarding the menstrual hygiene. It was a positive sign to note that government schools are doing a good work towards disseminating awareness to girls around menstrual hygiene, the biological process of menstruation and importance of using sanitary pads.
However, the awareness created at school falls short in meeting the desired results as family stigmas overpowers it and parents create a negative outlook around it affecting negatively the confidence level and reinforce low-self-esteem during the formative years of girls.
Maitri, stands for reducing Gender –based violence, so addressing adolescent issues become central towards its mandate. On 26th and 27th May, Maitri conducted a two day interactive sessions with Adolescent girls in the age group of 11 to 19 years. 3o girls joined in this campaign and participated in discussions around menstruation and its aspects like hygiene, practices, girl’s views around these taboos, social pressures, discrimination etc.
Every girl goes through the equal level of discrimination at the family level and stringent norms are imposed upon everyone. They are taught from the beginning that girls are supposed to behave in certain ways during mensuration. They are not supposed to visit temples, not take bath on those days, the girls who are not having periods are told not to mingle with girls having it as it will cause early onset of period to them too. Such misconception is reinforced in the minds of girls and gradually it becomes a part of their day to day life. However, most of the school-going girls are aware enough to understand the importance of healthy practices such as using pads, changing it at short intervals, disposing it properly etc. However, those girls who have left schools and due to inability to afford the cost of sanitary napkins, use clothes. The poor sanitation (i.e., lack of toilets) are unable to maintain proper hygiene practices.
Pic: Girls raising hands in support of Menstrual hygiene
On the second day, we decided to make the girls introspect, self-realise and to express themselves though drawings and sketching.
Mehrunisha, a girl from Muslim basti holds a simple desire to jump ropes, which is not allowed to her during periods, because according to her mother she should just sit and not do physical activity. Neha, wishes to be a model and wear long flowing gowns like them. She had drawn a picture with skill of an artist displaying her creative ability. Diksha, made a butterfly. She likes the colours of butterflies and likes to catch them. While talking, it was observed that how free and open she is in her thoughts and have the desire to know and learn various things. Pooja, made a drawing putting down taboos on menstrual hygiene, which according to her is wrong and the right things that everyone should follow.
Adolescent girls are our future assets, who can be empowered towards reducing any forms of Gender based violence and we should devise ways and means to educate, aware, motivate and value them, allow them to make informed choices on their own.
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