The Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day, May 28 observed globally, is now providing both a dedicated day and a platform for women and girls from less privileged communities and from across cities to break the deep-seated silence, voice their views and take on all the myths and taboos associated with menstruation
This is best evidenced by Gulashfa and Pratima from Kalyanpuri; they are dead serious about this issue and not only have a view about it but are clear that all others should think about menstruation in a rational manner and normalize it.
With MHM day being observed since 2014, we have been witnessing a sea change in people’s attitude to this issue. Women and girls no longer hesitate to dry their cloth pads in the sun, rather than in dark cowsheds as they had long done, and when they are asked to attended training sessions, they do so without hesitation. Adolescent MHM facilitators are meanwhile advocating for a convergent policy and decisive programmatic framework; with a nodal agency and desks in multiple agencies and government departments; for taking forward initiatives that promote safe and healthy MHM. More recently, the campaign has also been highlighting environmental concerns, especially in poor urban settlements, by asking women and girls to use reusable cloth napkins for both better personal hygiene and reducing menstrual waste.
The credit for this remarkable change in attitudes goes to the multi faceted campaign that has been undertaken by MHM facilitators, women’s forum members, master trainers and partner NGOs to: break the all pervading silence on this issue by openly questioning the rigid traditions and narrow narratives that have long surrounded it. While doing so they have also been strengthening the MHM value chain by providing information on personal hygiene, healthy nutrition, the choice and use of safe products and proper disposal. They have even been engaging with young men and boys because they feel it is imperative for men and boys to understand the issues surrounding MH and support them. A welcome offshoot of these interactions is that many young men and boys have expressed a desire to learn how to stitch napkins.
Various mediums from trainings to street plays are also being initiated to take the campaign forward. For instance, adolescent MHM facilitators, accredited by DM South West Delhi, are reaching out to peers and women in surrounding settlements; advocating with other NGOs and CBOs and working with rag pickers to strengthen their understanding of menstrual waste and how its harmful effects can be reduced by using compostable napkins. And trainings are also being conducted for ICDS workers in North East Delhi on orientation and stitching cloth pads, following a directive by the Women and Child Department.
Observance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day 2018:
This year, CFAR staffers in various states, organized a range of activities from consultations and round table discussions on MHM related themes to cultural programmes, trainings in stitching napkins to street plays in th five cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata. More importantly, these events brought together audiences that included senior bureaucrats from the ministries of health, education and environment, partner NGOs, members of women’s forums, men and youth from the community and school children.
In Delhi, over 200 adolescents, women and men attended on event based on the theme of “Safe MHM-from Behavior to Disposal”, in Block 18 Kalyanpuri; during which members of adolescent forums spoke on various facets of menstrual health and hygiene, from the need to work with men and boys to strengthening efforts to reduce menstrual waste. A street play, “Yeh meri nahi akeli, mahawari har aurat ki saheli”, which highlighted menstruation as a natural process that is important for all women and girls was performed. Four hundred (400) free reusable cloth napkins made by master trainers were also distributed.
In Rajasthan various events were held in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota including discussions on menstrual hygiene and management and a two day training of members of adolescent forums on stitching reusable sanitary napkins.
Bhubaneswar meanwhile was the venue of a daylong consultation on the theme of “Let’s Naturalize Menstruation” with participants including more than150 adolescent girls from 20 neighboring settlements; as also a round table discussion on the need to find – environment safe and affordable solutions for menstrual waste management. The principle recommendation that emerged from the discussion was that uniform standards and guidelines be put in place for currently available menstrual waste management technologies, like composting pits and eco-friendly incinerators, so that they meet the standards set by the State Pollution Control Board.
In Kolkata the day began with a dance performance titled “Beauty of Red” followed by a discussion on the theme of “No More Limits: Empowering women and girls through good menstrual hygiene”, in collaboration with Rajpur Sonapur Municipality. The focus of the event was on the need to make menstruation a non-issue and create platforms to promote good menstrual hygiene for women and girls.