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Menstrual Hygiene Day: Why Period Poverty Needs To Be Addressed Right Now

Menstrual health has been neglected for years now, but it is time that menstrual hygiene is treated as a right and not a luxury because everyone deserves healthy menstrual cycles.

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It was only in 2018 when the Indian government scrapped the tax on sanitary napkins but the big brands still charge high prices for their products. According to reports, in low-income groups, the percentage of women using sanitary products is as low as 53.6%.

As we mark Menstrual Hygiene Day today it is important to note that even in 2023, a country like India is suffering severely from a grave 'period poverty' -- with thousands of women, transgender men and non-binary people denied hygienic ways to manage their menstrual cycle.

While in urban cities people debate about choosing between menstrual cups and sanitary napkins and what would be more sustainable, those in rural areas are stricken with prejudices and poverty and do not have the luxury to choose any of the above-mentioned products. They end up using rags, sand ashes and sometimes reusing old clothes. This disparity needs to be addressed now.

What is period poverty?

The lack of access to fresh and clean menstrual products for every cycle is what is known as period poverty. Sometimes, it is the high price of these products while in some places, it is the prejudices that keep women away from a hygienic menstrual experience. Unsanitary menstrual products lead to diseases like urinary tract infections and reproductive problems. Awareness around buying low-priced napkins is not up to the mark.

The stigma around periods through generations further increases the shame surrounding it, increasing the 'hush hush' mentality that forces those who reuse cloth and rags to hide them in cupboards instead of drying them under the sunlight.

Consequences of period poverty

In India, especially in rural areas, many schoolgoing girls drop out because managing periods every month becomes troublesome along with studies. Reports say almost 40% of adolescent girls skip school during their periods due to the usage of poor-quality items to manage periods. And one out of five such girls drop out of school eventually.

Lack of education only binds them and their future generations inside the trap of taboo and stigma. Reports also say that if given proper education on menstrual hygiene, they are not likely to drop out and even use products to help themselves with better menstrual hygiene.

Period poverty also causes reproductive issues among women that become a threat to their health. Talking about women's health is still a taboo, still in a stage of evolution in India, and reproductive issues further lead to their ill-treatment by families, resulting in improper medical attention. Women in India, to this date, are also pressurised to give birth to more than one child and any attempt to revolt causes the blame to fall on them. Without proper medical attention, the health of the women only deteriorates causing a threat to their life.

Why is Menstrual Hygiene Day important?

A day in the name of menstrual hygiene could be a boost in the journey of improvement of women's health all over the world. Access to clean menstrual products each month is a right and not a luxury. Open dialogue about women's health, especially menstrual health is necessary for all women to lead a better and healthier life. Organisations and governments can take advantage of this day to spread awareness and make a difference.

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