Last updated 19/3/18 at 1:23 PM
Whilst traveling several remote rural areas of Assam, Arrchana realized that, there is also a need to focus on the necessities of Women and Children. She was moved by the incident of an adolescent girl at Chirang.
She depicts the incident- “During a clothes and food distribution program in Chirang, I suddenly noticed a girl in a corner who did not come up to us. She was the only one left to receive the distribution items. The sight of the girl with a drooping head and locking ankles made me more curious. I insisted, but the girl was stock-still. She was sobbing and seems embarrassed. Then, a friend expressed her state. She was menstruating with blood stains on her clothes. She has only one pair of clothes and unaware of sanitary napkins, and to buy one is unimaginable for this girl from such an extreme poverty stricken family.
Menstruation is a natural biological process faced by all adolescent girls and women. People still get embarrassed to talk openly. So LET US TALK. Menstrual hygiene management is an integral part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Guidelines. MHM framework states access to knowledge and information, access to safe menstrual absorbents, water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and access to safe disposal of used menstrual absorbents. It results in Dignity for adolescent girls and women and the ability of adolescent girls to stay in school during menstruation. Every adolescent girl and woman, and their families, including men and adolescent boys, must have awareness, knowledge and information so that menstruation is understood and can be managed safely with confidence and dignity. Every adolescent girl and woman must have easy access to sufficient, affordable and hygienic menstrual absorbents during menstruation. Every adolescent school girl must have access to a separate toilet with private space for cleaning, washing. This includes access to adequate and sustained water supply and soap. Every adolescent girl must have access to infrastructure for disposal of used menstrual absorbent, and should know how to use it.
In an another incident
An adolescent Joba asked scornfuly -
“Why we are not allowed inside the kitchen during our periods?
Why are taboos imposed on us in the name of religious traditions?
Why are we scared to mention it to anyone?”
It is an extract of Joba’s dismay. She lives in such a remote rural area of Assam where lights of wisdom never dare to creep. There exist innumerable taboos and myths pertaining to menstruation. Women feel embarrassed and think it as an act of losing self respect and refrains from mentioning it to anyone.
Joba’s Sister Tora accused-
“No, She cannot talk about her periods to anyone.They believe menstruating women are impure and therefore they cannot enter the kitchen.They should live in a separate room outside the house during periods and not even think of going inside a temple and refrain from attending any religious programs.”
Some popular beliefs we came across -
1. Women and girls are told that during their menstrual cycle they should not bathe or will become infertile.
2. Touch a cow or it will become infertile
3. Look into a mirror or will lose visibility
4. Touch a plant or it will die
But then, Myths and Taboos apart. They are unaware of the life threatening consequences of unhygienic menstrual practices. Maximum females go through their periods very secretively and never bothered if her practices are hygienic or not. Women in rural areas still use reusable unhygienic cloth during menstruation. Poor menstrual hygiene can cause fungal infections, Reproductive Tract Infection and Urinary Tract Infection which might lead to cervical cancer. Women who practice unhygienic practices are also vulnerable to infertility. It is seen that a massive majority of Girls and Women in India do not use Sanitary Pads due to Affordability and Unavailability. Now it becomes our social responsibility to create an intensive exercise of safe menstruation and Management to girls and women especially in rural areas.
Those incidents led to the implementation of - Let us talk, a program on Menstrual Hygiene Management. The purpose of the program is to educate the G I R L S about menstruation prior to menarche and understanding the biological change, educate adolescent Girls and Women on safe menstrual practices and liberalization from social taboos and providing access to knowledge and information, safe menstrual absorbents, water, sanitation, hygiene and safe disposal of used menstrual absorbents. Eventually, on May 13, 2017, the program was finally implemented.
Let us Talk - Menstrual Hygiene Management programs -
1. An awareness program on menstrual hygiene management at Hatisar-Dadgiri village of Chirang District, Bodoland Territorial Council, Assam on 13th-May-2017. Sanitary Napkins were distributed to 350 Girls and Women.
2. An awareness program on menstrual hygiene management at Dharigaon, Jorhat integrating 3 villages Dharigaon, Doh Kukurasuwa and Garowal Sungi, on the occasion of WORLD MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY on May 28, 2017. Archana Borthakur, Founder of Priyobondhu delivered the keynote address. A compelling interactive session and awareness speech was delivered by Dr. Binoy Kumar Borah, Asst. Professor, JMCH and he was assisted by Dr. Jyotirmoy Sarma, PRCA, JMCH. 175 Girls and Women participated in the program. A set of Sanitary napkin and Women innerwear were distributed to each participant.
3. An awareness program on menstrual hygiene management at Negheriting TE, Dergaon, Golaghat on June 25, 2017. Archana Borthakur, Founder of Priyobondhu delivered the keynote address. An interactive session and awareness speech was delivered by Dr. Ghiasuddin Ahmed, Medical Officer, Kamalabari BHPC, Majuli and Rumi Devi, District coordinator NHM, Sonitpur informed about the various health related government schemes. Special invitees Shri. Bhabendranath Bharali, MLA of Dergaon, Shri. Nurul Sultan, President of Dergaon Sahitya Sabha, eminent social worker Sri Abhijit Borah and journalist Kaju Robi Das, Reporter, Dainik Janambhumi etc. participated in the program. 400 Sanitary napkins and Women innerwear were distributed to each participant.
4. An awareness program on menstrual hygiene management at Salana TE, Anjukpani, Nagaon on October 29, 2017. The awareness speech was delivered by Dr. Dharmananda Sarma, M.O. of Simonabasti BHPC, Salana , Nagaon, Ankita Borah, ANM of 2no Anjukpani sub-centre and Rekha Reddy, ASHA of Anjukpani TE. 200+ adolescent girls and women participated in the program. Sanitary napkins were distributed to each participant.
5. An awareness program on menstrual hygiene management was conducted at Nalapara slums, Narengi on March 11, 2018. Sanitary pads and toiletries were distributed to adolescent girls and women.
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