The Struggle of Being a Menstruator
The hurdles don’t stop when it comes to menstruation. The dos and don’ts, taboos, and myths are still very prevalent. The most affected are the menstruators in rural India. Whilst our efforts are to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and menstruation, the rural landscape lacks, the very basic facilities.
According to India's 2011 census, 89% of the nation's rural population lives in households that lack toilets. An estimated 355 million Indian women and girls must find ways to cope with monthly menstrual hygiene. Most of these women either have no access to toilets or are faced with unclean lavatory facilities. Moreover, they usually wait until night-time before using public toilets or fields, which exposes them to various forms of physical attacks. Multiple studies have found that girls in low-income settings miss or struggle at school during menstruation if it is not possible for them to effectively manage their menstrual hygiene.
For feminine hygiene, the majority of rural women in India use cloths and rags. Because it may be difficult for women to keep their used napkins clean and free of dangerous bacteria, these materials may predispose them to reproductive tract infections. Due to a shortage of water, private facilities, and cultural taboos, washing reusable feminine items with detergent and drying them in the sun might be challenging due to lack of water, private facilities, and cultural taboos associated with menstruation. In slums, where many are dependent on community toilets, social distancing measures and mobility restrictions make it difficult for girls and women to use toilets as frequently as they need to during their period. Privacy to change materials frequently and to discard them is impinged upon for urban and rural residents alike.
A case study was done by One India-
“Periods don't stop for pandemics," says 12-year-old Shweta Kumari who is short of sanitary napkins because the distribution from her school has either stopped or delayed due to the ongoing lockdown to combat coronavirus. Kumari is not alone in this, several girl students of classes 6 to 12 who are studying in government schools across the country, narrate a similar ordeal. They are given sanitary napkins every month under the central government's Kishori Shakti Yojna. Kumari, who studies at a government school in Haryana's Kurukshetra, said, "The entire focus has been shifted to the distribution of masks and sanitiser and nobody is talking about these basics. It is important to save ourselves from the deadly virus but periods don't stop for pandemics." Geeta, a class 7 student from Alwar in Rajasthan, said, "Even if we get the money to buy it, it is so difficult to step out for women, especially during the lockdown to buy a sanitary napkin.”
An average female menstruates around ten years of their lifetime. This biological process comes wrapped with a plethora of stigmas and stereotypes. Thus, most of them are unaware of proper menstrual hygiene. Poor menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Many have limited options for affordable menstrual materials. Most do not have access to materials to manage their menstruation, especially in times of emergency - natural disasters and pandemics. The struggle continues to make period products accessible and affordable, and educating the masses about menstrual hygiene.