By Deep Bajaj,
In a sea of challenges facing our country today, menstrual issues have been brushed under the carpet. The truth is that menstruation has a lot of information as well as misinformation attached to it, but only the latter is more easily accessible. As a result, there are hushed conversations around menstrual hygiene, leading to complicated health problems.
While the taboos plague all the stratas of the society irrespective of the financial status or the level of education, the rural segment is far more impacted due to the lack of last mile delivery of sanitation services and medical support. Year after year, with the onset of their periods, thousands of girls drop out of schools owing to inaccessibility to economical sanitary products and information regarding healthy hygiene practices. Moreover, stigma around menstruation adds to poor menstrual management. The ones who do manage to navigate through this and complete their higher education, continue to struggle with menstruation-related problems that limit them in multiple ways.
In the economically weaker section of the society, both in rural areas as well as in urban slums, women who can not afford clean period products end up using ash and old rags, and suffer from serious health complications. The ones who can afford clean period supplies get restricted by societal taboos passed over the generations, thereby discouraging them in their professional and personal pursuits.
In a world which progresses fast for the people with means, a society’s success lies in ensuring that the have-nots progress at an equal rate, if not higher. It is not that there are no efforts in this direction, but like the changing times, periods-related products, narratives and mindsets need to change. Common solutions like sanitary pads, hot water bottles and painkillers come with their share of limitations — accessibility, effectiveness, affordability, environmental impact, and sometimes side effects as well.
The two things that can alleviate period issues are spreading awareness of the right menstrual hygiene practices and making innovative solutions accessible to women across various sections of the society.
While the government and social groups are taking initiatives to address the subjects pertaining to policies and advocacy, some companies are doing their bit by coming up with unique, solution-oriented products. Products like menstrual cup (minimises sanitary waste), herbal pain patch (ensures sustained relief and zero side effects), natural anti-chafing rash cream (protects and heals inner thighs) etc. are some of the options that are making periods easier for women today.
Added to what the market offers, period-related education plays an important role in solving the menstruation problems. Social campaigns that spread awareness about hygiene and health normalise the conversation around menstrual health and its impact on a woman’s day to day life.
More women are realising the benefits of menstrual cups that offer longer, leak-proof protection and prove to be far more economical in the long run. To make these products accessible to underprivileged women, social groups and companies have also been conducting awareness campaigns and distribution drives.
While women are increasingly switching to cups, Sirona Hygiene has to its credit 5 lakh menstrual cup users in India. Other than this, its free cup distribution drives have helped rural women in India, Nepal and Malawi to switch to cups.
Even as the work on addressing menstrual issues is underway, the journey to making menstrual management hygienic, convenient and dignified for women is far from over. The government, the social sector and the corporates need to work collectively towards a world where women can chase their dreams unbridled and free of menstrual hygiene worries. The truth is that menstrual hygiene is women’s basic right, and society owes it to them.
(The author is CEO and Co Founder of Sirona Hygiene. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)