Menstruation is still a taboo in India and it is common for people across society to feel uncomfortable about the subject. Coupled with it, is the fact that there is a lack of information on the process of menstruation and proper requirements for managing menstruation. The taboos surrounding this issue in society prevents girls and women from articulating their needs and the problems of poor menstrual hygiene management have been largely ignored or misunderstood. Good menstrual hygiene is crucial for the health, education, and dignity of girls and women. Equipping adolescent girls with adequate information and skills on menstrual hygiene and its management helps in empowering them with knowledge which enhances their self-esteem and positively impacts academic performance.
It is important to understand what menstruation is, and how simple management interventions along with positive attitudes can make a lasting difference to the lives of every adolescent girl and woman. The following definitions are helpful.
- Adolescent girls: Adolescence describes the transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Girls aged 10 to 19 are adolescents.
- Menarche: The first occurrence of menstruation
- Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when her menstrual periods stop and she is no longer able to have children
- Menstruation: ‘monthly periods’ A biological process in a woman where each month blood and other material is discharged from the lining of the uterus. Menstruation occurs from the onset of puberty until the menopause, except during pregnancy.
- Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM); menstrual hygiene The (i) articulation, awareness, information and confidence to manage menstruation with safety and dignity using safe hygienic materials together with (ii) adequate water and agents and spaces for washing and bathing with soap and (iii) disposal of used menstrual absorbents with privacy and dignity.
- Menstrual absorbent: A sanitary cloth, napkin, towel or pad is an absorbent item worn by an adolescent girl or woman when she is menstruating. The material absorbs the flow of blood from her vagina. Other menstrual hygiene products include tampons and menstrual cups.
- Menstrual waste: Includes a used sanitary cloth, napkin, towel or pad that contains blood. Bio-degradable; compostable, organic materials A substance or object that is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and thereby avoiding pollution.
Safe and positive management of menstruation
- Be aware, seek information and articulate your needs with confidence. There is nothing to be shy about. Speak to your mothers, aunts, teachers or local Anganwadi workers and ASHAs.
- Use safe and hygienic absorbents or other menstrual products.
- You can find cost-effective sanitary napkins with your local ASHA.
- Wash well and bathe regularly.
- Dispose of menstrual absorbents well as these can cause infections.