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Menstrual Hygiene Management: The Delhi Story

“My mother told me to stay away from boys when I started having periods for the first time. No one talks about it and as a result I don’t know what is right from wrong. I only know that I have to stay away from many things during those 4-5 days that I bleed every month.”   (Muskan, 18 years, Rajasthani Camp)

Menstruation, the most natural process for many women and adolescents across the globe, remains the most secretive subject ever inflicting severe indignity upon millions of women and girls, violating their basics of human rights. The stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of their bodily integrity, health and privacy, the right to freedom of mobility and it reinforces gender inequities and exclusion. The worst is the serious lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products pushing the menstruating girls to health hazards, including temporary and sometimes permanent dropping out from schools.

No work on sanitation is complete without addressing the menstrual health and hygiene needs of  women and in our endeavor to establish a sustainable sanitation value chain we have been engaging with  menstruating-age women across geographies to ensure that they not only have access to hygienic menstrual practices  but also to safe and bio-degradable disposal of menstrual waste.

This is best reflected by Rama, Member of the Women’s Forum, Babar Pur who said: “We need to start talking about menstruation and address the inherent taboos and stereotypes to reduce violence against women.”

In Delhi, the Forums of Young People or Adolescents and Women’s Forums supported by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) have reached out to 474 adolescents and 882 women across 73 settlements; 150 college going students; 232 ICDS workers across 168 ICDS centers and have conducted several training sessions on re-useable cloth pads- ‘Uger’- the new beginning which has been designed and developed by an NGO in Udaipur. Along with skilling women to make their own re-usable cloth pads, sessions on general and specific hygiene related knowledge and awareness are also shared and deliberated on with the trainees. At present we have 53 master trainers across our intervention areas in Delhi, who are not only training women and young adolescents in their own settlements but are also training officials, teachers, students and NGO partners.

Speaking about this, Manju, a trainee from Gautampuri said: “Many of us still can’t talk about menstruation openly and are tied by age old rituals and practices. I am very happy to break out of this mould and undergo the training and I will now be very careful about my health and hygiene and will also inform others with right information.”

Therefore, the intervention on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in urban poor settlements is a multi-pronged initiative. It is as much about  responding to increasing need and interest among women and young girls to know all about menstruation- breaking  silence, managing health and hygiene, reducing menstrual  waste, challenging the existing myths and practices. Also recognize that while sanitary napkin is a symbol of hope and aspiration, young women in these urban poor settlements realize that there some salient choices to be made. It is in this spirit, they came forward to find alternative to conventional sanitary napkins that are increasing the burden of environmental waste and showed interest in being trained for making their own reusable and biodegradable sanitary napkins. These trainings in many ways are also opening up potential livelihood opportunities for the economically vulnerable women.

The Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) is collaborating with and supportive of the effort and in fact, requesting the master trainers to train the ICDS workers on the technique of making Uger cloth pad. We have been also invited by SDM, South West District, to train women on Uger napkin making.  It is encouraging to get support from all concerned and see young women benefitting from the training and developing innovative solutions.

This was stated aptly by Rekha, ICDS Worker, Sadatpur Bhajanpura, who said that: “I knew that the sanitary napkins we buy cannot be recycled and pollutes the environment. Now Uger napkin will solve the  problem and will also cost much less as we can now re-use the sanitary pad.”