Youths across Odisha, associated with the #Youth4Water campaign raise awareness on safe menstruation, vow to fight stigma

Bhubaneswar: Even as hundreds of youths, associated with the #Youth4Water campaign, across the state raised awareness on the importance of sanitation and hygiene practices during menstruation, they have planned to fight out the stigma surrounding it by reaching out to as many youth as possible in their areas.

Each of the youths involved in the campaign from both rural and urban areas, vowed to reach 100 youth in person within the span of a year besides his/ her family members. They have also vowed to continue a robust social media campaign – “Let’s Talk Period” – to spread message to fight out the taboos surrounding period. The social media campaign also aimed at spreading messages on the importance of maintaining hygiene during the monthly cycle, said Ranjan Panda, the campaign lead.

This campaign is being facilitated by Water Initiatives, Patang and other partner organisations in cooperation with UNICEF, Odisha. About one thousand youths from colleges in five districts are now actively involved in this campaign. The #Youth4Water campaign intends to reach out to each youth of Odisha by 2025 with messages of water and river conservation; sanitation; hygiene and climate change awareness and maintaining hygiene during menstruation is one of its primary objectives, pointed out Panda. The youths have already taken to the social media by posting photographs with Red Dots on their palms that indicates that we all need to talk on maintaining hygiene during period, he added.

An active youth volunteer of the campaign, Subhashri Sethi, belonging to Mayurbhanj district, sporting a red dot in her palm, said, “Period is no shame. It is a beauty the Nature has gifted the girls with. There is nothing to hide about it. The male persons should not shy away from discussing about it. Rather they should take part and cooperate in wiping out the stigma around it. As these taboos are deep-seated in our society, large-scale awareness is required to wipe them out.”

Latasha Das of Baripada added, “We are taking it up in a mission mode to reach out to as many people as possible. While we have fixed a minimum target to reach out to 100 youth individually in person this year, social media is the best medium to reach out maximum audience.”

She added, “We will try our best to ensure that girls, at least in our community, adopt hygienic practices during menstruation. Many girls and women in rural areas donot have access to sanitary napkins. I wish the government reached out to them with free sanitary pads. We are asking these girls and women to use cotton cloths as pads, clean them properly with soap or detergent powder and dry them under sun after every use. We are also asking them to store these in air-tight packets and use it in their next cycle.”

Presenting different figures around menstruation, UNICEF’s Shipra Saxena said there are 336 million menstruating women in India. Around 66% of girls don’t know anything about menstruation before their first period, according to a 2012 report. For 23% of the girls in rural areas, having their period is one of the reasons to quit schools. 28% girls don’t go to schools during their period. Data also says that on an average, a woman menstruates 3000 days (8.2 years) in her life time. Due to unhygienic practices in all these days, 14% of girls/women suffer from menstrual infections. Thus, it is very important to adopt hygienic practices during menstruation, she added.

Panda added, while lack of awareness is the reason behind the issues related to menstruation, the risks multiply during disasters and emergencies. During this current pandemic, thousands of women belonging to slums and rural areas are suffering as they lack access to sanitary napkins because they don’t have money to buy. Besides, unavailability of sanitary pads in most of the shops is another reason. Lack of water at door step to wash the clothes, which they use instead of pads, is another reason behind their failure in adopting hygienic practices. The problem of migrant women who are walking hundreds and thousands kilometres to their homes after the lockdown cannot be even imagined. It is high time the government came up with proper strategy to support women in menstruation management during emergencies, Panda maintained. He also added that lack of access to WASH (water, sanitation & hygiene) infrastructure at quarantine centres, public places, roadsides and trains need to be addressed with additional funding and technical support.

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