A special five day Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Training of Trainers completed today at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, jointly organised by the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a United Nations membership organization that advocates for improved sanitation and hygiene for the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the world, and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the world’s first large scale interfaith initiative to bring the world’s faiths together for improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), in association with the Institute of Development Support, Dehradun.
The blessings and presence of HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President, Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder, GIWA, was experienced throughout the training as He addressed the delegates on many occasions sharing, ” Let us celebrate this life giving Shakti [menstruation]. You are not dirty, you are Divine. Even the Divine if She/He needs to come on Earth must come through this path, so how can it be dirty. It’s time for people to help Matri Shakti (divine feminine) to come forward in every sector. You all have been chosen for this special and vital cause.”
He added, “I am known for my statement and work to bring Sanitation and Meditation together and now with the incredible strides made under the Swachh Bharat Mission and the visionary leadership of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji we are going to announce an Open Defecation Free India. Let us know work to bring Menstruation and Meditation together. Let our meditation be how to bring light to the pain and suffering caused by the taboos, stigma and shame associated with this natural and divine process.”
Eleven trainers and high level WSSCC representatives came together to train nearly 70 participants from all across India and the world, all hand selected and majority of whom who have more then 5-10 years of working in the development service sector.
This special and one of a kind training program is a vital step towards inspiring and encouraging Trainers to passionately and compassionately serve and improve sanitation and hygiene for women and girls across India and around the world. WSSCC Geneva Office Ms Neloum, WSSCC India Head Shri Vinod Mishraji, WSSCC’s Kenya Trainer Senior Representatives of the WSSCC Ms Irene Gai, WSSCC India Project Associate Manali Bhatnagar, WSSCC India WASH Support Officer Trupti Ashtankar and many others.
More than 23-35% of girls drop out of school once they reach puberty due to lack of safety, privacy and lack of water proper facilities to manage their menstrual cycle. Only 15-20% women in India use sanitary napkins, rest of them use cloth which often creates major problems of hygiene. Countless other women feel the pain and suffering of the taboos, stigmas and shame associated with this issue.
During the first three days participants were made aware of the many issues and challenges as well as solutions and resources available. The WSSCC training works with a three-pronged approach on MHM— the first pillar focuses on breaking the silence on the subject, working to eliminate taboos and stigma associated with menstruation. The second pillar comprises of educating the public on the different resources available for menstrual hygiene management. The final pillar tackles the safe disposal of products and materials used. The participants were also trained about MHM Lab and how safe spaces can be created to allow for these issues to be discussed and mass awareness to be raised.
On the third day they had a special video conference with the Secretary General of GIWA Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati who joined them from Germany where she was attending a major Religions for Peace organised interfaith gathering of over 10,000 faith leaders. She warmly welcomed everyone home and emphasized the crucial importance of women to have access to safe sufficient resources they require to take care of themselves. She expressed, “In a country and culture which reveres the power and divinity of Shakti, we must do everything we can to ensure that our sisters, daughters, mothers and all women and girls are fully empowered. Menstrual hygiene management is essential to obtaining a proper education and being able to succeed and thrive in the workplace. Breaking taboos around menstruation is essential to our girls and women embracing the full power and divinity of themselves. I am so glad that our global interfaith wash alliance is partnering with WSSCC for this crucial work, and this training is a fantastic beginning!”
Shri Vinod Mishraji shared during the evening Aarti, “After achieving ODF the Government of India is moving towards ODF+. ODF+ objectives can not be achieved without MHM. GIWA and WSSCC are developing together Master trainers at national level who will work across the country to build the capacity of state and district level trainers on MHM.”
Irene Gai shared with excitement and enthusiasm, “Swamiji I am deeply humbled by this experience because in all the countries we have trained such as Africa, Asia and parts of Europe I’ve never seen the kind of collective, communal spirit I’ve seen along the banks of this river.”
The next two days they were tested and led their own sessions to test their knowledge. Deeply inspired by the training, the participants pledged to empower women through providing access to proper menstrual hygiene education and support to find solutions in their communities. Many shared how surprised and deeply grateful they were that a spiritual and religious organisation of faith was the platform where these vital discussions were taking place.
During the last day a special certification ceremony took place several trainers and participants made speeches and gave testimonials, talking about the significance of the training, what each of the participants learned and gained from it, and their personal experiences and anecdotes. Special thanks were given to GIWA’s Director of Programmes, Development, Partnership and Policy Swamini Adityananda Saraswatiji and GIWA’s Director Programme Implementation, Integration and Communications Ganga Nandini for their support to coordinate the entire programme.