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An issue characterized by cultural taboos and superstitions, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in India is compounded by a lack of awareness of menstrual hygiene and associated healthcare practices; the unavailability of material to safely manage periods; and a lack of access to toilets. Dasra’s report Spot On! highlights key challenges and solutions in the menstrual hygiene management sector.
The report highlights certain areas key to building a strong and enabling environment to improve menstrual health and hygiene in India. First, educate mothers, who are usually the principal point of contact when a girl first gets her period. Then, create an enabling environment in schools, where teachers are a significant source of information for girls, especially when mothers are an inadequate source of information. Schools provide a platform to educate and prepare a critical mass of girls on menstrual hygiene best practices. Finally, the market for cloth and other locally produced alternatives needs to counter the widespread unavailability, unaffordability and non-biodegradability of commercially marketed sanitary pads.
Further, since menstruation is a taboo topic, even those responsible for spreading awareness do not have the correct information. It is critical therefore to engage important decision-makers such as men, older women, panchayat leaders to create an enabling environment for ensuring better MHM. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has also taken positive steps and integrated MHM into its schemes, and several social businesses have developed machines that can produce low-cost sanitary napkins. All these stakeholders must both be engaged and collaborate to holistically serve the menstrual hygiene sector.