On any given day, up to 350 million women and girls in India menstruate, yet across the country menstrual blood is considered impure. Girls and women are expected to hide all signs of menstruation, shrouding this natural, life-affirming phenomenon in secrecy, superstition and stigma. And few people talk about menstruation until menarche actually occurs. The result of this wall of silence is fear, shame, absence from school and work leading to a vicious cycle of poor hygiene practices based on inadequate information – all of which are exacerbated by poverty and inappropriate facilities for changing, washing, drying and disposal.
Menstruation is integral to female identity, health and vitality and therefore managing their menstruation with safety and dignity is essential for realizing the right to water and sanitation for women and girls. As such, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) must be a feature of any large government scheme seeking to change behavior.
WSSCC works hard to break the silence around menstruation, increase demand and practice of menstrual hygiene management and safe disposal, promote hand washing at critical times and stop open defecation to achieve a clean and environmentally safe India.
We are therefore excited to announce that the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation of the Government of India has approved a proposal from WSSCC to change the guidelines in the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan to recognize the importance of menstrual hygiene management (link). The new guidelines will help to bolster budgets and plans for raising awareness of safe and adequate menstrual hygiene and disposal of used menstrual materials safely.
In India, this work started with the WSSCC Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in 2011, where MHM featured strongly, and was further accelerated under the Nirmal Bharat Yatra in five Northern States in 2012, where WSSCC conceptualized and delivered a ‘menstrual hygiene lab’ for over 12,000 women and girls and hundreds of students and teachers in 28 schools at the Yatra, which was organized by WASH United and the Government of India.
The Minister, senior bureaucrats at national, state and district level, NGOs and private sector partners were invited to participate in the MHM lab and linked advocacy events to check demand. The demand was overwhelming – confirming the need for safe spaces, materials and counselling on MHM to break the silence so that women and girls can make safe and informed choices as to how they manage their menstruation with dignity.
While working on the policy change, WSSCC refined and produced the materials tested in the Yatra, for use in wider advocacy and training in Hindi and English. Sixty-five trainers from nine Hindi speaking states have been trained in MHM by WSSCC in partnership with the Indian government. Training programmes in South, East and West India will be rolled out in partnership with state governments in 2014 and beyond.
The change in the NBA guidelines was announced in December at a workshop on gender, water and sanitation jointly organized by WSSCC, WSP and SHARE in New Delhi.
Details of the new NBA guidelines can be found at:
Kenya’s gender equality advocate aims to demystify menstrual health via online period parties By Kevin Mwanza NAIROBI, Kenya – Janet Mbugua is a household name in Kenya, following her career as a news anchor and media personality on some of the country’s top TV stations – Kenya Television Network and Citizen TV. She was also […]
By Olajide Adelana ABUJA, Nigeria – The Federal Government of Nigeria has pledged its support to protect the dignity of menstruating women and girls in Nigeria during a World Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) event. The honourable Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, stated that the Ministry would find ways to incorporate teenage girls […]
By Raza Naqvi A webinar to exchange plans and methodologies to protect vulnerable groups from COVID-19 was hosted in May by the India Support Unit of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in partnership with the UK’s Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Sri Lanka’s Regional Sanitation Centre (RSC), and the Freshwater Action Network […]
GENEVA – Closure of Europe and high-income countries in peacetime may be unprecedented, but the war against preventable diseases such as COVID-19, cholera, polio, measles, and Ebola has long been raging for the 3 billion people who lack basic hand-washing facilities in their homes. Nearly three-quarters of the populations in the poorest countries have no […]