Author: Urmila Chanam and Komal Ramdey
Given WSSCC’s reputation as a key resource agency for Menstrual Hygiene Management, Mr. Vijay Kiran Anand – Mission Director, Swachh Bharat Mission, Uttar Pradesh, requested WSSCC to support five districts of India’s most populous state – Uttar Pradesh – to implement a sustained programme on Menstrual Hygiene Management. These districts include Agra, Baghpat, Etah, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur.
With engagement from WSSCC’s India support Unit, the MHM intervention kicked off on 5 February 2018 with the inauguration of a 5-day MHM Training of Trainers (ToT) in Saharanpur District. Seventy government officials from different departments, such as Health, Education, Women and Child Development, participated in the ToT.
The MHM ToT was successful in bringing together and initiating convergence between the different departments for a sustained district level MHM programme that extends beyond the ToT and where the district administration will take ownership to coordinate the activities of different line departments.
While discussing their first menstrual experience, women participants shared the shame and fear they felt and the difficulties they experienced due to lack of access to sanitary materials:
“I got my periods while I was in school, so the teacher sent me home. It made me feel like I had some disease and for a year I did not know that periods are something that other girls also get.”
After learning about the biological reasons for menstruation, they were taught the use of the WSSCC tools to break the silence on menstruation.
Field visits to a co-ed college, a school for the visually impaired and a women’s empowerment organization were also organized so that participants could practice the use of the MHM tools and develop their skills in real time. These visits also gave them new perspectives. As one of them said: “I had an opportunity to interact with girls with visual impairments and learn of their problems and life situations. I had never thought of how they must be managing their menstruation.”
The ToT culminated with the development and sharing of a district-level action plan on MHM.
The ToT was successful in breaking several myths and stereotypes about menstruation, as revealed in the pre- and post-training evaluation. While 91% of the participants believed that menstrual blood is impure on the first day of the ToT, by the last day there was not a single participant who held this view. Similarly, before the ToT, 89% of the participants felt that menstruating girls should not participate in sports. After the ToT only 4% still believed in this myth.
Participants also became aware of the range of sanitary materials available, their advantages and disadvantages. Ms. Anita Sonker, Child Development Programme Officer, Government of Uttar Pradesh, said she never had any idea about the waste being generated due to disposable pads and its impact on the environment. After the ToT, she ordered a menstrual cup online and now carries the cup, a sanitary pad, the WSSCC menstrual wheel and flipbook in her handbag every day and talks to her staff and other department officials on the need to raise awareness on Menstrual Hygiene Management.
As the Chief Development Officer said, “Menstrual hygiene should be made a priority. The Saharanpur District Government is keen to ensure awareness on MHM and facilities for girls and women. This training is the first step towards that direction.” WSSCC will now support the government to set up a district level MHM committee and review the implementation of the action plan on a regular basis.
Editor’s Note: The authors are WSSCC members and trainers based in India.
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WSSCC’s Virginia Kamowa, writes how menstruation is associated with one of the most pervasive stigmas that holds back gender equality