A woman’s body undergoes various changes when she reaches puberty, one such change is menstruation. Despite being a natural process there is a lot of stigma attached to this subject. Women cannot openly discuss about it, men don’t talk about it and as a whole society treats it as a taboo. One of the most important aspects of this entire process is maintaining hygiene. Menstrual hygiene is an important aspect of personal cleanliness and if ignored can lead to a variety of diseases such as reproductive tract infection etc. Due to lack of awareness women in rural areas do not take proper care and often resort to using unsafe means of cleanliness.
There are various conservative religious beliefs which put restrictions on menstruating women and stop them from leaving their houses or going to temples or using measures to maintain cleanliness when they menstruate. Women in rural areas often use dirty clothes, sand or ash in place of sanitary napkins which has a detrimental effect on their health. The shame and taboo attached to the entire subjects make women uncomfortable even to ask for better means from their families to maintain hygiene. According to a survey, this is why the cases of reproductive tract diseases are more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
Apart from the shame and the discomfort of talking about menstruation, knowledge and awareness about the existence of products that can be used for hygiene purposes is another factor why women in rural areas don’t use these products. Even where there is awareness the financial inability to buy these products becomes a hurdle. In such cases it is imperative to initiate talks and educate people on the importance of menstrual hygiene.
There are many organisations working on manufacturing low cost sanitary pads for rural women and educating them on the need to use them. In this time when the talks on women empowerment are on rife it is one of the ways to bring women to understand their need to maintain hygiene and fulfil them. It emboldens young girls in rural areas who are the future of the nation to not live under shadows of men and fight for their own needs.
Smile Foundation’s Swabhimaan programme aims to bridge the gap between the necessity of such hygienic measures and the easy access to it. The very core of empowerment of women lies in the roots of freedom and self-respect and access to basic health. It is the duty of every individual to spread awareness, sensitize the common population and work towards the empowerment of the girl child and women. It is time for us to speak about this “less talked about” subject and help in empowering women in true sense of the word.
To know more about Smile Foundation’s initiative ‘Swabhiman’ please log into https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/swabhiman.html