Delhi : At a Webinar hosted by Centre for Advocacy and
Research (CFAR) on Making MHHM Everyone’s Business, Dr. Zoya Ali Rizvi, Deputy Commissioner, National Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, stated that the first step one should take is to hammer the point that menstruation is a natural process and needs to be engaged with by everyone concerned. Speaking about governmental involvement she said that, “menstrual health and hygiene is an issue that many Ministries other than Health Ministry, are engaged with and every process from developing guidelines to integrating it with women’s empowerment, education, water and sanitation, livelihood
development is being fashioned by the Government in a unified manner” and went to add that both the wider society, community and civil society organizations have an important role to
play in scaling up the issue and addressing the multiple dimensions.
Reinforcing this perspective, Dr. Kajri Mishra, Dean Xavier School of Human Settlements (XAHS) and Ms. Trisha Pareek, State Youth Officer, UNFPA, Rajasthan stated that MHHM was as much a human rights issue as a health issue. Speaking about this, Dr Mishra stated that the long-term health impact of lack of services including information has not been given the importance it deserves. Ms. Pareek pointed out with the launch of the Rajasthan State Women Policy, both community and civil society organizations have an opportunity to centre stage this issue and take it from strength to strength.
Taking this forward Ms. Prithi Prativa Bholo, Additional Director, School and Mass Education and Madhumita Nayak, Joint Secretary, Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of Odisha, emphasized that this is an issue that must be taken up in a united and coordinated way by all concerned and especially for women and girls with disabilities.
While introducing the inaugural panel, Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, CFAR pointed that the webinar will “give women and girls who spearheaded the Post-COVID intervention in both cities of Bhubaneswar and Jaipur to make MHHM everyone’s business an opportunity to listen and reflect on not only what they have done well but also what more needs to be done to ensure that the issue not only gets the attention it deserves but gets shaped
by people most affected by both unequal opportunities as well as entrenched challenges,” she added.
Girls and women living in informal settlements in the city of Jaipur and Bhubaneswar who were badly impacted by COVID-19 lockdown led a locally-driven campaign post-unlockdown. With the support of CFAR and all forums of women including trans-women they not only promoted greater awareness on menstrual health and hygiene but also attempted to heal all girls and women who had been traumatized during the lockdown with no access to
services and sanitary pads.
Speaking about this Nafeesa, from Jaipur who spearheaded this initiative said “Having struggled for so many years as a single parent of a girl child, all of that paled in significance when it came to what we suffered during the lockdown with no proper access to toilets, taps and pads.” She likened it to the last straw on the camel’s back.
Soon the healing process helped girls and women to turn an adversity into an opportunity. Sharing her experience, Manisha Samal, Kishori or Adolescent Girls’ Club member, Bhubnaeswar said that “I participated in a nukkad natak and poster making competition this helped me to gain self-confidence.” Speaking on behalf of women, Vijay Kanwar, leading this initiative from Jaipur said that they decided that the “self-help groups will start producing bio-degradable napkins with the technical support of a Gujarat-based organization Vatsalaya.” Meanwhile, women leaders from Bhubaneswar decided to start a Pad Bank to
store sanitary napkins during crisis like COVID 19. Describing this initiative, Kaberi Bhoi from Bhubaneswar said “members of this initiative not only pooled Rs. 10 each to buy the
pads and store it but also used this initiative to talk about menstrual health and hygiene.”
Together with the Pad Bank members of Jaipur, the women purchased and distributed nearly 3000 sanitary pads. Emphasizing the need for an inclusive approach on all health and social development issue, Pushpa Mai, who heads Nai Bhor, a Transgender organization stated that “transgender should
be included on all discussion on menstrual health and hygiene because we also use pads, and, therefore, need to be made aware about its mode of usage and safe disposal. We must be part of all awareness campaigns that government and civil society organizations are conducting on this,” she emphasized.
The intervention was reviewed by a panel of experts. Dr. Shobhita Rajagopalan, Acting Dean Institute of Development Studies said that consistent pressure from the ground to integrate
MHHM with the programmatic framework of adolescent development and women’s rights will help all stakeholders including governments to engage consistently with the issue.
Dr. Chayanika Mishra, UNFPA proposed that life skill education with scientific information on sexual and reproductive health and menstrual health and hygiene should be provided
consistently to ensure change in mindsets and perspectives.
Ms. Lakshmi Murthy an expert and pioneer in strengthening MHHM in both urban and rural contexts and Additional Director, Jatan Sansthan said “far more discussion needs to held on
products so that women and girls make informed choice on both use and production of sanitary napkins.” She also added that the definition of menstrual health and hygiene is a state
of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing and not just absence of disease so all discussion should focus as much on the former as the latter.
Ms. Garima Sharma, State Welfare Officer, Department of Women’s Empowerment, Rajasthan Government said that the “more we share information on menstrual health and
hygiene and nutrition the more we can dispel all the myths and misconception on this issue.”
She went on to state that “if we continue to speak on this issue with all stakeholders through different networks and platforms, we will be able to change people’s mindset and attitudes.”
Dr Surbhi Singh Founder of Sacchi Saheli working on menstrual awareness said that we need to enhance confidence among girls and women on what is right and vital so that entrenched
attitudes that stigmatize this issue gets addressed.
Ms. Arundhati Muralidharan Manager, Policy, Water Aid suggested that women and girls should be motivated to reach out to frontline workers and “use practical steps to engage
frontline workers on the issue including building their capacity to make the process of educating women and girls as interactive and friendly as possible.”
Kanchan Mathur, Gender Specialist, Rajasthan said what is commendable about the intervention is the involvement of women and girls and their ability to engage all local actors to break the silence on this issue in a manner that is both impressive and thoughtful. She urged the group to deepen their understanding of the different intersectionalities on gender especially women and girls with disabilities and other marginal groups.
Tanya Mahajan, founder member, Menstrual Health Alliance, India said that “during the pandemic since access to Pads became a critical issue and were not a part of the essential commodities, women and girls explored many affordable reusable alternatives from making cloth pads to menstrual cup but in both cases discussion and informed consent is vital.”
Loknath Das, UNDP. Bhubaneswar, said the since menstrual waste is solid waste and when we speak about safe disposal it means environmentally friendly and safe disposal. “So, everything from collection as a separate waste and treated as dry waste is necessary to prevent risk to sanitary workers,” he added.
Collection is very important as separate waste – wrapped in papers and treated as dry waste to prevent risk for sanitary workers.
In BBSR, we have incinerator to dispose pads in MCC centers once we have collected in bulk Sanitary napkins should be regulated so that EUR framework. We can use local level incinerators in rural areas if waste collected is not a large quantity. At ward level we can have electrical incinerators an ash can be disposed at the landfill site. Segregation and collection mechanism must be in place before we plan the disposal.