Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

  • Nancy
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Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

Dear MHM community,

Several partners (Development Solutions Inc, PATH, WaterAid, WSSCC, and Zariya) in the Menstrual Health Alliance India (MHAI) developed the attached series of documents - Pushing the Boundaries on the Menstrual Health Management Dialogue - for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2017.

The series covers three key menstrual health themes—normalizing taboos, menstrual hygiene products (access, affordability, and appropriateness), and disposal systems and access to infrastructure in the Indian context. Also included are several infographics, including a call to action, a value chain, and one PATH developed some time ago on product attributes of various menstrual hygiene products.

All the best,
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

Dear Ms. Nancy,

In Pakistan, due to Muslim culture, women and girls do not talk of issues around MHM. Does your experience says otherwise?

In India, do the women and girls shying away from talking about MHM?

You have mentioned a number of development partners (Development Solutions Inc, PATH, WaterAid, WSSCC, and Zariya), are they working on MHM in Pakistan?

Regards,

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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  • sbhattacharya
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Re: Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

Dear Mr. Mughal,

Your post is very interesting. I have been working in MHM for the last twenty years and I have worked in some Muslim-dominated areas as well. Yes it is a taboo subject but I did not face much difficulty. I am talking about more than one states in India with diverse socio-economic conditions. We harp on the health, genito-urinary infections, cervical cancer etc and the women show keen interest since most of them are sufferers. Moreover, the adolescent girls are more forthright, clear in their demand and I suppose this will bring change. I am very interested to know what kind of work you are doing there. I will also share mine.
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Re: Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries


F H Mughal (Mr.)
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  • Nancy
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Re: Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

Dear Mr. Mughal,

Thank you for your response and for your interest in menstrual health. Having men engage in understanding menstruation is certainly part of addressing the taboos that are still present in most cultures, not only the Muslim cultures. Normalizing menstruation is the first step that needs to be taken. There could be nothing more normal than menstruation.

In response to your questions, from qualitative research PATH and partners conducted among women in Tamil Nadu, India we found a willingness to talk about menstruation when asked about it but it was not something that was openly discussed in their culture. Mothers, in general, were not comfortable discussing menstruation with their daughters and were grateful for education provided on television or in schools. I live in the US where menstruation is not openly discussed. It has been a subject that has been kept in the dark around the world. Fortunately, that is starting to change.

There is a great deal of creative work happening in India. I was just in India as the movie, Padman, was released - about the Tamil Nadu activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, who designed simple machinery to manufacture disposable sanitary pads. The Menstrual Health Alliance of India in Delhi is doing excellent work in advancing menstrual health through engaging with the various Government ministries who are responsible for implementing the national guidelines for menstrual health. The documents I posted are from a number of members of that group.

I appreciate you sharing the articles from Pakistan related to menstrual health. Interestingly, I have recently been introduced to Mariam Adil through the Geneva Health Forum (April 10-12, 2018) which is holding a workshop on digital approaches to menstrual health. It is very exciting what she and her team at GRID are doing to develop apps for phones in Urdu and Swahili to help normalize menstruation and also provide accurate information. grid.strikingly.com/ Very exciting! So I guess menstruation is beginning to be discussed in Muslim cultures. Where do you see the most need for change around opening up the issue of menstruation?

With best wishes,
Nancy
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Menstrual health in India - Pushing the Boundaries

Dear Ms. Nancy,

Thank you for your informative and interesting post. I can see your hard efforts on MHM.

As luck would have it, today, in Dawn, a feature appeared on the back page, which, frankly, was even surprising to me. Here is the link: www.dawn.com/news/1390420/footprints-zone-of-silence

The feature says it all! I would strongly suggest that, not only you, but international organizations, based in Pakistan, like WaterAid, UNICEF, GTZ, and others, should read it. There is a great scope for them for action, in top gear.

The feature, in part, reads:

THE mahwari [period] had never been easy for A. She had to use rags, which had been used by the other women of the household, and then hang them in dark, musty cupboards to dry. Sometimes they were even used half wet. Of course, at this time of the month, school was out of the question.

Sadaf Naz faced this when she was in the 9th grade, and her period began for the first time. Her mother had never told her about it, but her sister gave her a piece of used cloth — thin and worn out — and told her not to dry it on the hanging line in case their brothers would see it.

Later, in college years, Naz learned about sanitary napkins — but still faced embarrassing situations with shopkeepers. It was incidents like these that led her to plan out a startup called Her Ground, where she offers subscriptions for the home-delivery of sanitary napkins.

“I found that it is not just about accessibility to napkins,” says Naz. “There is the problem of women not being able to buy them, but more than that most women do not even know they exist.”

Apart from using socks, cotton wool or rolls of cloth, and then limiting all movement, many women use drastic measures to control the flow. Some use ashes and some even sand. Obviously, this points to the possibility of several medical issues.

More in the feature . . .

The girl, Sadaf Naz, deserves great credit for spearing-heading the campaign. What do you think?

Kind regards,

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
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