Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, May 28:
Nearly 23 per cent girls in the age group of 12-18 years in Odisha remain absent from school during their menstruation period due to lack of sanitation facilities in school, reveals a study conducted by international NGO WaterAid. The study said most of the girls remain absent in school for an average of five days a month during their menstruation.
To mark the first ever ‘Global Menstrual Hygiene Day’ here, WaterAid, in collaboration with State’s Women and Child Development (W&CD) Department, UNICEF, National Alliance of Women (NAWO), AAINA and Doordarshan, organised a workshop celebrating womanhood as well as creating awareness on menstrual hygiene management at personal and institutional level.
Addressing 150 adolescent girls, women, AWWs, ANMs, Government officials, representatives of NGO, who attended the workshop, Bisakha Bhanja of WaterAid said most of the girls do not know what menstruation is. They believe that menstrual blood is impure, which bars them from touching anybody during the period. “In most cases, it is socio-cultural restriction for girls during menstruation which stops them from entering places of worship places,” she said, adding “One out of every three girls in the State is not aware about menstruation prior to attaining puberty.”
When there is so much ignorance and taboos about menstruation, menstrual hygiene is highly ignored leading to serious implications for the health of women, Bhanja said. Refuting the perception that it is a ‘dirty’ thing, she said it is a normal biological process.
Communication specialist of UNICEF, Bhubaneswar Alka Gupta talked about issues associated with menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Because of the social stigma that prevails, menstrual hygiene is usually overlooked in the society affecting the education, physical and mental state, environment and human rights of women, she said.” There is a need for change in people’s mindset by creating awareness at the school and community level with the support of various stakeholders,” she said.
A film on menstrual hygiene was shown and a Menstrual Hygiene Lab showcased on the occasion to make women and adolescent girls aware of the subject and to educate them on the science of menstruation.
Among others, Usha Padhi, Education Secretary, State W&CD Project Advisor Amrita Patel, Doordarshan Director Jayanti Rath, WaterAid CEO Neeraj Jain, Sneha Mishra from Aaina and Koushik Banerjee spoke on the occasion.
WaterAid has been working on Menstrual Hygiene Management issues since 2007 in India and since 2009 in Odisha.