MHM-Not just a girl thing! Guest Column by Charlotte
Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) defines menstrual health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle. However, it is very unfortunate, that in today’s world we are unable to reach this state completely. Studies conducted in low and middle-income countries indicate that females face several challenges related to information about menstruation, affordable and appropriate sanitary products, sanitation facilities and proper avenues for disposal of menstrual waste (as a study by Sommer, 2016 and Chandra-Mouli and Patel, 2017 suggests). This situation is made more complex by taboos and cultural practices that accompany the discussion of sexuality in general and menstruation in particular. For a long time MHM has been treated as a female thing, so was never discussed in front of males. Majority of the conversation is never centered on the need to understand that good menstrual hygiene management leads to a healthier life that is more inclusive and considerate. How we manage our menstrual hygiene really dictates how far a country has grown? Making it a part of a regular conversation shows progress. Wouldn’t it be interesting to discuss menstruation like we discuss food? Weird comparison, but a thought worth pondering over. Not only do we need to make women feel comfortable in their space during those critical days but also make them feel that they can have a safe way to handle their menstrual hygiene without needing to jump hoops or disappoint their ‘ancestors.’ As we achieve milestones and set out outcomes that are anticipated, we should aim at making sure that females receive the dignity that they deserve in the decision making process and are comfortable with the interventions that have been put in place. We need to instill pride with respect to this issue by creating awareness and also by being advocates. The menarche should be celebrated. A great leap in the growth of every girl. Let us start a movement of celebrating our ‘days’ rather than hiding away from the shame and the stigma that the community has opted to embrace. The government needs to be involved and streamline policies that will govern all the working sectors. Policies that will touch schools, public institutions, hospitals and so on. It is about time, menstrual hygiene classes are introduced in the school curriculum and not just as a short ‘period’ class but one that is continuous so that it can trigger growth or change in the minds of students. Life skills training should also include this. A vital piece of what every child, of any gender should learn. Interventions fronted should be able to give females the freedom to enjoy every sphere of their life without being limited because of what their bodies are going through. I am looking forward to a world where men will be vocal to talk about period issues and women will have complete say on how they wish to have the issue handled in various communities. Pads should be available for free even at restaurants but we are not ready to have that discussion. Or are we?