Research grant on Menstrual Management & Sanitation Systems (University of Maryland, USA and South Africa, India)

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  • depinder
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  • Depinder Kapur is a senior development professional with experience in WASH, Livelihoods and NRM.
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Re: Research grant on Menstrual Management & Sanitation Systems (University of Maryland, USA and South Africa, India)

Dear Vivian and fellow researchers,
There was a good discussion on MHM issues recently in India - on WesNet.
Please find below one summary comment that I had posted after some exciting exchanges on this issue recently where there was a debate on blindly accepting existing MHM practices as failures and adopting western solutions in a developing country context;
The 3 concluding points I could gather on MHM;
1. There is tendency to ignore and learn from existing and past practices and jump to solutions that are very much in terms of converting a traditional practice into a commercial service, that comes with a cost and a service provider. We see this so often in WASH sector. Hand washing with soap is promoted and not ash or any other non commercial product. Boiling of water that is the most widely practiced improved behaviour change for household water treatment and SODIS, find less favour as compared to all other treatment options. Creating a market for pit latrine cleaning using septic systems promoted as a PPP solution for rural areas. There is a tendency in WASH Behaviour Change communication - to preach simple hygiene messages in WASH without trying to know why people do what they do and assuming that awareness is not there.

2. No all traditional practices may result in healthy and convenient solutions or be socially and individually acceptable today. If traditional practices are leading to serious impacts on womens health as is sometimes reported of young girls getting serious infections, then alternative solutions are needed. However if there is a potential for improving them with some changes( changing attitudes by removing stigma of drying the menstrual cloth in the open), and other prejudice – then its a better option than adopting a commercial service option(sanitary pad).

3. If womens hygiene requires privacy for bathing and cleaning, and that is not available, then that is perhaps a more critical priority to address menstrual hygiene.
The best solutions may be location and culture specific. Most of us who have worked in the WASH sector are weary of large national level programmes and promotional drives that ignore locally acceptable solutions based on a sound analysis and engagement with people/women and understanding of motivations that guide behaviours.

Best wishes.
Depinder Kapur
Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India Mission and member of the 12th Five year Plan Working Group on Water and Sanitation.

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