Health and Hygiene

Women's health in the world is one of the crucial issues that are being dealt with by governments and non-governmental organizations. 64.7% of women in the world [1] are currently within the menstrual age, and majority of them do not have access to clean environments or safe products. Despite this being unique to girls, menstruation has always been surrounded with myths in many societies, including India. Indian women are generally more subjected to these taboos in rural areas, where 73% of the poor live [2], and where education levels are lower as well.

Taboos and myths about menstruation impact girls' and women's emotional state, mental and physical health as well as lifestyle. The challenge of addressing the socio-cultural taboos and beliefs about menstruation is further compounded by ignorance about puberty, menstruation and reproductive health.

Some of the taboos in India as it relates to menstruating females are:

  • They are considered impure, dirty, and contaminated during menstruation
  • They are not allowed to enter places of worship, and are restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books
  • They are not allowed to sleep during the day, bathe, wear flowers, talk loudly, or touch anybody
  • They are not allowed to enter the kitchen, cook, or prepare any meals

Due to these regressive ideologies, the growth and development of women has been severely restricted. In a study [3] conducted in 2013, 62% of females were unaware of the reasons for menstruation. The role of the health sector in providing information regarding menstruation was minimal as only a few women (1.5%) had received information from a health worker. Only 28.8% of women were using sanitary napkins and of those who did not use napkins, only one-fourth (25.3%) were willing to buy them.

Large numbers of girls in many less economically developed countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating. This includes over 23% of girls in India. Over 77% of menstruating girls and women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused without proper disinfection. Furthermore, 88% of women in India resort to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand to aid absorption. Lack of openness about menstruation makes them believe in the above ideologies, which has the followingimplications:

  • Missing school or dropping out altogether
  • Lack of support system within the community
  • Limited knowledge of menstrual hygiene practices
  • Health problems like Anemia, Leucorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases due to improper menstrual hygiene practices

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