In India, the majority of girls know little or nothing about menstruation before their first period. A taboo subject that is rarely discussed at homes or in schools, menstruation is often seen as shameful. The culture of silence around periods can leave girls confused and fearful when they hit puberty. This lack of awareness often costs girls their social lives and education. Almost one-quarter of girls in India drop out of school when they reach puberty. This ignorance also comes with health risks, with studies showing that around 90 percent of women in India don’t wear sanitary pads, using materials such as rags, newspapers and sand instead and increasing their risk of reproductive tract infections.
Under our comprehensive WASH approach, we pay particular attention not just to distribution but also imparting training on the usage of sanitary napkins. We educate women and girls about the myths, taboos and shame that promotes a culture of silence around menstruation and puts girls’ health at high risk. We meet girls who are kept in seclusion, prohibited not only from going to school or temples but even forbidden from entering their own kitchens or eating meals with the rest of the family.
Our interventions have had a positive outcome on the overall health of girls. We are now working on proper disposal mechanisms in schools and villages.