Periods are a significant part of a woman’s life so it’s really important to know and talk about it. In a developing country like India, talking about periods is yet not normalised. Around 71% of girls remain unaware of menstruation until they experience their first-period cycle. Many adolescent girls still struggle to understand what is happening with them when they experience their first periods. I too have faced this situation as no one told me about periods before I had them.
At the age of 12, I had my first periods. I was shocked and scared seeing so much blood. I didn’t tell anyone about it because I was afraid and had no idea what was happening to my body so I used some cloth. I was not able to sleep at night due to pain and heavy flow. Due to the discomfort and cramps, I even cried. But the next day my mother came to know about it so she gave me a sanitary napkin, explained to me how to use it and all she told me about periods was that it happens with every woman so there’s nothing to worry about.
There are many more girls out there, who aren’t aware of periods. Their parents don’t tell them about it as they still don’t feel comfortable to talk about it openly.
In many parts of India, menstruation is still considered to be impure. Even in some cultures, especially in Hinduism, there are a lot of restrictions for menstruating women which make no sense. Menstruating women are prohibited to enter the kitchen, touch other people, touch prepared food and eat a certain food item like pickles or curd. They are even told to sleep in a separate bed and wash their own utensils. In some cases, a woman is not allowed to wash her hair for the first two days of her periods. A girl or woman on periods is prohibited to enter the temple, offer prayers or even touch a holy book as she is considered to be impure. It’s a natural phenomenon and it shouldn’t be regarded as impure. There are many more countries which have their own menstruation-related customs and beliefs such as some countries in Africa and Indonesia etc.
All such myths and taboos affect the mental state, emotional condition and lifestyle of women so it’s really important to bust them. Both men and women need to understand that it is a natural biological process and not some kind of impurity or a disease. Menstruation education is really important to impart knowledge about periods and make people aware that it is natural and normal so that they can forego all the myths.
Lack of menstrual products.
In India, many girls miss their school due to the lack of menstrual health products such as sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups etc. Most girls don’t even have access to menstruation supplies and use rags, cloth, sand, ash and hay as an alternative. These alternatives are neither comfortable nor safe as they could affect health and cause severe infections. According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-2016 approx 36% of women in India use sanitary napkins during their periods and the rest have no access to them. The country is under lockdown due to COVID-19. According to a survey conducted in April, 84% of women were restricted access to menstrual products during the lockdown due to lack of production and distribution, especially in the rural areas. Availability of menstrual products and proper disposal of them is very important to maintain menstrual hygiene. In view of spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene, 28th May is celebrated as Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Government, as well as various NGOs, are taking the initiative to spread awareness about menstrual health and providing access to menstrual health products to women. We are moving forward and things are changing but still, there’s a long way to go.