Menstruation, in many societies, is considered as disgusting, impure, or unclean. The fact that menstruation is called by various names like on the rag, jam and bread, and girl’s flu shows the embarrassment associated with periods. One more example to support the fact that menstruation is considered as a social stigma is the sanitary pad advertisements, displaying menstruation as blue ink to prove its absorptiveness. As a result of myths and embarrassment, females lack knowledge related to menstruation and reproductive health.
What is menstruation?
Every month female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) prepares the uterus for carrying a child by thickening its lining. In absence of fertilization, the uterine lining sheds resulting in bleeding through the vagina, which is known as menstruation. It is a shame that menstruation is considered disgusting even though none of us would exist without it.
Why is menstrual hygiene important?
Menstrual hygiene is vital for maintaining physical health and preventing environmental contamination. Lack of menstrual hygiene, like reusing the cloth pad after washing, can result in reproductive tract infection. Improper disposal of menstrual waste is a serious environmental hazard and can spread diseases. It can cause contamination of water source if disposed in or near a water body. Disposing pads in toilet results in choking and overflowing of the toilet. Inaccurate knowledge about the method of cleaning the genitals is also one of the reasons for health hazards. Genitals should be cleaned from the front to back. If done the other way around, bacteria from the anus are pushed towards the urethra causing urinary tract infection. Falling sick because of a lack of precautionary measures during menstruation is one of the major cause of school absenteeism among girls. Menstrual hygiene ultimately contributes to fairer education between sexes, gender equality, and women empowerment. Hence, the importance of menstrual hygiene cannot be stressed enough.
Obstacles to menstrual hygiene
Though menstruation is a natural process, it is associated with various myths and misconceptions. These myths and taboos connected to menstruation compel many females to relate negatively to menarche (beginning of menstruation) and menstruation. Mothers are not comfortable in sharing facts related to periods with their daughters. Most females have inaccurate or inadequate knowledge about menstruation. Many females, especially in rural areas, do not have access to sanitary pads. They use cloth, leaves, or mud to absorb menstrual blood. Hygienic infrastructure like waste disposal mechanism, water and soap, private and accessible toilets are not easily available. All these factors act as obstacles to menstrual hygiene.
Menstrual hygiene and women empowerment
Women empowerment is defined as a process by which a woman gains control and power of their own life. True empowerment comes only when a female leads a healthy life. Discussing and addressing health concerns, especially related to menstruation is vital for a healthy female life. One of the major hindrance in menstrual hygiene is the lack of knowledge and shyness related to the topic. Hence the first step toward women empowerment is breaking the silence. Menstruation awareness and promoting menstrual hygiene has a positive impact on the mental and physical health of a female. Lack of sanitary facilities and embarrassment causes many females to drop out of school after menarche, which eventually results in these girls having a low quality of life in terms of self-growth and development. Because of their lack of education, they usually find it difficult to participate in the important decisions concerning them and their society.
Since centuries, menstruation is seen as something to be ashamed of or as something disgusting. This taboo on menstruation prevents many females to openly talk about it, ultimately resulting in a lack of adequate knowledge about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Women empowerment is possible only when a female is healthy and menstrual hygiene plays a very important role in it.