Missing Voices & Missed out Issues
Through this Dialogue we want to bring these center stage some urgent menstrual issues, that must be prioritized in the larger menstrual narrative..We all read the recent news of Vijaylakshmi, a 14 year old girl, who died inside the menstrual hut in Cyclone Gaja in Tamil Nadu. (story link https://bbc.in/2Gst1mi). Dignity of menstruating women and adolescent girls or the danger of menstrual waste in rural India, already a big challenge in urban India etc.
Being a woman, comes with a set of challenges.. The good news is that menstruation, a basic biological process women deal with every month, has, over the last few years been a subject of development sector attention and policy level changes.. But there are still some missing voices on the margins whose menstrual challenges need urgent attention.
Consider this… Parents of disabled girls consider having their daughter’s uterus medically removed, to avoid sanitation problems arising when the girl would menstruate and to avoid a possible pregnancy if the girl was sexually abused. One of the hardest things about being homeless, is being a woman.. While Shelter, hygiene, dignity are a far cry.. every month they face a crisis of deciding between a pad and food.. Being part of a larger tribal population struggling for basics, tribal women face the brunt of lack of nutrition, education, early child bearing and reproductive health complications. On the other hand migrant women we commonly see outside construction sites face many difficulties like lack of privacy and facilities to manage their menstruation, living in cramped, unhygienic surroundings, using unclean, poorly lit, shared toilets or forced to go for open defecation..
Missed out Issues
These and many issues like menstrual waste, lack of research around connect between menstrual health and reproductive health or lack of infrastructure that are bothering women across the country. Consider these;
One crucial but Missed Out issue is Women’s DIGNITY. Women routinely face indignity, shame and humiliation, subjected to discriminatory practices, considered impure and untouchable. We believe menstruation is a human issue, not women’s issue when countless women aged 12 to 50, are subjected to these indignities every month.
The Big Miss even within the menstrual product centric discussions is that Cloth Pads are summarily rejected, even though cloth is a viable option, as its biodegradable, reusable, affordable, accessible to millions of women. All it needs, just like market products, is awareness about how to hygienically use and dispose.
The Big Miss has also been deliberation on the impact of plastic based non biodegradable menstrual products going to women in rural India which has comparatively less infrastructure, sanitation, disposal and waste management facilities.
Some Voices and Facts..
A question posted on Quora “Do prostitute work when they are on their periods?.” To which one lady, who was in the profession answered, “If we didn’t, it would be a 1 week unpaid vacation every month of which when you are running a business or you have a career or just any job that you are dedicated to, it’s not practical.” She also mentioned, women use birth control to stop their periods or use a sponge to stop the flow of the blood.
Written in:- 2017
Written by:- A question was posted on Quora. A sex worker answered the question
Missed Out Issues
According to a study conducted by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DSMC), a Kolkata based sex workers committee, 40% of sex workers use cloth during menstruation. Mostly sex workers suffers from yeast infections and vaginitis, and in long-term problems like pelvic inflammatory disease, or sexually transmitted infections like trichomoniasis.
Written in:- 2017
Written by:- Shambhavi Saxena; Youth Ki Awaaz (under the campaign #Goalpebol of the National Foundation of India, to start a conversation around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals)
“Even today at times of emergency while working in the field or when cloth is not available we use leaves from local Sal Trees.” (The women of Koi tribe) – Sugapada village of Daringbadi block, Odisha
The moment a girl begins to menstruate, she is taken to a little ‘hut’ on the outskirts of the settlement, where she is expected to stay for five days. She is brought back into the community after a bath. – Banagudi tribal colony, Tamil nadu
Written by:- Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme
“My clothes felt wet, I asked my friend, who is partially blind, to check if there was something on my skirt. She grinned and declared that I have grown up” (A differently-Abled girl from Shree Nakoda Karan Badhir Vidyalaya)
Year:- August 2018
Where:- The session was conducted with 50 deaf and mute girls along with 5 of their special educators in Shree Nakoda Karan Badhir Vidyalaya, Bhiwandi
Missed Out Issue
Parents of disabled girls consider having their daughter’s uterus medically removed, to avoid sanitation problems arising when the girl would menstruate. In 2015-2016, 3.2% women, between 15-49 years had the surgical removal of uterus.
Author:- Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria, Monash Health, University of Melbourne, Royal Children’s Hospital
Source:- National Family Survey Report (2015-16), Research paper on NCBI
“We did not have any compartmentalized washroom in our shelter home where we can bath in private. Once I traveled all the way to Kalkaji to take bath” – Kamal, Rag Picker
Where:- A session was conducted in a shelter home in Nehru Place
Missed out issues
Domestic workers are not allowed to use the toilets in the houses where they work. They cannot use toilets even when they are menstruating or have some problems, despite cleaning those toilets themselves.
Written by:- Meenakshi Tiwari
Published in:- The wire
“It is our job to pick other people’s dirt. At times we have to pick worm-infested rotten kitchen waste. It does not worry us. What worry us are bloodied cotton, sanitary napkins and bandages.” – Mina, a waste picker in West Vinod Nagar, East Delhi.
Written by:- Soma Basu
Source:- Down To Earth
Missed Out Issues
India has 12.3 billion disposable sanitary napkins to take care of every year, majority of which are not biodegradable/compo-sable.
Written by:- Down To Earth
When women and girls face difficulties with managing their menstruation, it negatively impacts the enjoyment of human rights and gender equality.
Year – 2017
Source:- Wash United