Challenges faced by menstruators in slums
Updated: Feb 23
Isn’t menstrual health something we take for granted? Why is it something that we never look at as a major problem? We do not realise and get irritated when we do not have the right kinds of pads, while some menstruators do not even have access to the right measures. Here at The Active Dreams (TAD), our priority is to provide menstrual hygiene products where they are not available. Maintenance of hygiene and health care is important to prevent multiple health problems.
Menstruators in slums and other unsanitary areas go through shame and lack of basic resources. In an article by the Indian Express, women in the slum areas were interviewed in terms of their period health and experience. “At Khulewadi slum in Chandannagar, 25-year-old Reshma and 16-year-old Raina (names changed) recall “embarrassing” moments when they had to wait the entire day to dispose of their sanitary napkins in the garbage bin near the community toilet. “During the day, there was always a group of boys at the spot, and we would feel shy. There was no option but to wrap the sanitary pads in paper, put a red dot on them and then wait till late to throw them with other garbage,” the sisters said.” (The Indian Express, 2020). On the contrary, we have a dustbin in our bathroom so that we can dispose of the menstrual waste. This is a right that everyone should have – to be able to dispose of waste without the burden of shame associated with menstruation.
The experience of getting your first period is overwhelming in itself. The confusion and shame associated with this make it even more difficult to get through. Periods are draining for women in overpopulated slums because privacy is non-existent and it is difficult to get through them freely. The taboo and shame around periods make it difficult to dispose of sanitary products. They put economic pressure, physical pressure and mental pressure due to the shame and notions of purity and impurity associated with it. This makes the menstruators use cloth, rags, cardboards and not demand what they have the right to ask for. They are not given the right information and methods to manage their bodily functions.
Some of the key issues faced by them are:
1. Lack of privacy.
2. Lack of right knowledge of menstrual hygiene.
3. Lack of effective birth control and contraception methods.
4. Lack of hygiene products like Sanitary Napkins, tampons and menstrual cups.
5. No guidance to young menstruators due to the idea of menstruation being a taboo.
6. Lack of disposal outlets for the safe and comfortable disposal of sanitary products.
7. Lack of acceptance from men and elders for menstruation and its safe treatment.
Many factors affect how women manage their monthly period, such as the lack of information and awareness on menstruation, unaffordability of menstrual products, poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and services, lack of privacy, safety and security. This article seeks to highlight the challenges faced in managing menstruation in the context of a slum/poor urban settlement and the need for a convergent and comprehensive approach involving key stakeholders including communities, civil society and government departments to ensure gender-sensitive, menstrual hygiene management-centric interventions (sage journal 2019).
As a society, we need to be period positive and help the menstruators around us. We need to stop ignoring the fact that what we take for granted is an urgent need and a right to menstruators. To extend our support to the menstruators in slum areas, we can extend a hand and donate some sanitary kits. Even by departing knowledge to young women to break the taboo and help them navigate through their menses is something that we can do.
Anuradha Mascarenhas, May 26, 2020.
Pune: Women in slums battle ‘monthly cycle shame’, poor access to menstrual products | Cities News, The Indian Express
Vasudha Chakravarthy, May 22, 2019.
Does Menstrual Hygiene Management in Urban Slums Need a Different Lens? Challenges Faced by Women and Girls in Jaipur and Delhi - Vasudha Chakravarthy, Shobhita Rajagopal, Bhavya Joshi, 2019