According to UNICEF records, 26% of the world’s female population is in the reproductive age yet menstruation or any other topic related to it is shamed and ostracized in many parts of the world. In India, only 12% of menstruators have any access to proper menstruation products and 88 % have zero to little access to any proper menstruation products. This is the most practical explanation of the term period of poverty. Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products and menstrual hygiene education due to financial constraints or cultural misconceptions about menstruation. Period poverty doesn’t stop at menstruation products but it also includes the safe waste disposal of menstrual products and clean washing facilities. In India, there is clear discrimination on menstruating women due to religious myths and taboos about periods. While talking about period poverty it is also important to acknowledge that all women do not menstruate and not all menstruators are women. Many women suffer from medical conditions which renders them unable to menstruate.
Menstruation continues to be one of the main reasons why girls drop out of school in India. Lack of proper toilet facilities, lack of menstrual products, and the absence of education or awareness of menstruation and its hygiene practices are stated as the reasons as to why girls drop out of schools. India has exempted menstrual products is a good move but seeing that only 12% of the menstruating population has access to them.
LACK OF AWARENESS –
The absence of logical awareness of periods is a major problem in India. A study by NGO Dasra in 2014 stated that 70 percent of mothers consider that menstruation as dirty and 71 of the girls had no awareness about menstruation before they experience it themselves. With no knowledge about periods or proper products to use, women and young girls resort to using rag clothes and old clothes which are unhygienic and have many physical health risks and UTIs. Schools were also not very helpful in raising awareness about periods because it is still considered as a taboo to speak about it. Schools usually refrain from talking about menstrual hygiene to their students. An average of 40 percent of girls misses out on school on account of menstruation due to no proper period products or washing facilities. Because talks about menstruation are shunned by society due to religious myths and taboos many girls refrain from talking about it or educating themselves about it.
LACK OF SANITARY PRODUCTS –
Out of 355 million female populations in India, only 12 percent have access to menstrual products. Since in rural areas the concept of menstruation is hardly talked about, sanitary pads or tampons are not found easily. Because menstruation products are not considered essential products and the social stigma which causes the lack of demand shops in rural India do not have period products. Due to the lack of sanitary pads or napkins women use old cloths or rags or old socks and other methods to absorb period blood which is unhygienic and could put a women’s health at risk. Many problems related to unhygienic menstruation include cervical cancer, UTIs and anemia could be avoided with the use of proper period products.
GOVERNMENT SCHEMES FOR MENSTRUAL–
The first such measure taken by the government of India was-Freeday Pad Scheme in 2010 to provide sanitary pads at low rates (RS.6 per pack) for rural girls, it was launched in 20 states. In 2011 the government launched the SABLA scheme which along with pads at subsidized rates it also provided girls education of menstrual health. In 2014, Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram was launched as a sanitation program for 243 million students and menstrual hygiene was a main part of the program. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan allocated funds to improve menstrual hygiene and raising awareness in rural India.
Conditions for menstruating women can only increase when menstruation is commonly conversed about and its social stigma is banished. India’s first option is to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and its importance. Many of the problems that women face during menstruation can be avoided by using period products. Simultaneously with awareness, sanitary napkins must be made available to women in rural areas that encompass over 300 million women. By normalizing menstruation and by educating women and men about it will bring down the stigma about periods and will help reducing period poverty