India too joined other countries in fighting the global pandemic and took strict measures to combat the spread of the highly infectious virus upon detection of its first corona virus case. As COVID-19 continues to spread, impacts caused by the virus has thrust the importance of pandemic and contingency planning into the forefront. Access to safe menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in schools continues to remain low directly impacting the risk of infections, absenteeism and dropout rates among adolescent girls. Often during emergencies and disasters, MHM is not given due attention. It is worth noting that when schools reopen post COVID considerable measures, increased vigilance and hygiene should be in place for adolescent girls so that they manage their periods with confidence and dignity in schools.
Schools with adolescent girls should be MHM ready post COVID in terms of availability of menstrual products, water and sanitation facilities, disposal infrastructure, and structured capacity enhancement programs on MHM awareness and knowledge to ensure sustained practice of safe MHM. In addition initiatives to help girls break taboos and speak openly about it and educational material to enhance understanding and discussion on MHM and safe hygiene practices linked to it should be in place. It’s important for the states/districts to have MHM policy especially for schools in context of the current scenario and allocate sufficient funds towards effective implementation and monitoring of MHM programs in schools. MHM should be prioritized as a key activity and sensitization programs including boys/men should be introduced in all schools.
Dr Priyanka Senior Research Fellow
Administrative Staff College of India