NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON MENSTRUAL HEALTH & HYGIENE UNITES GOVERNMENT, FAITH, SOCIAL AND NGO LEADERS
The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) organized a joint event, bringing cohesion and concurrence to ongoing planning and implementation efforts of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Awareness.
2 DECEMBER 2020, RISHIKESH/NEW DELHI: In the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has strained the resources and the resolve of hundreds of millions around the world, the important work of sanitation and hygiene takes on an even greater importance – something that the dedicated members of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and the Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council are all too aware of. Coming together for women and girls empowerment, they have partnered together to break the silence around and work together towards Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH).
Despite the strides made and the traction gained in MHH in the recent past, ensuring availability of safe and hygienic menstrual absorbents, improving access to Menstrual hygiene friendly facilities at homes and institutions and creating a taboo free environment where Menstruation is discussed openly and families and communities are supportive is still a long-way from being the norm. In India, Menstruation still continues to be a disabler for most girls and women, with 23 million girls dropping out of school once they start menstruating and a large proportion of women still opting for unsafe and unhygienic options for managing menstruation.
Because of this, today’s important Consultation – brought together some of the key stakeholders in the field. It’s an effort to provide an impetus to and sustain the momentum generated so far, while also being an attempt to rekindle the conversations around MHH that have not only become even more relevant in the current pandemic times, but which have also been negatively impacted due to the natural diversion of resources and attention to the global emergency. Most importantly, it brought together policymakers, NGOs, thought leaders, activists and field-level change agents who have been relentlessly contributing to the agenda of breaking the taboo around menstruation and have been pushing the agenda of improved access to MHH supplies, sanitation facilities and services in India. And, significantly, the workshop united the different Ministries working on MHH – including representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Women and Child, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – on one platform to discuss the intersectoral collaboration and the way forward.
Pujya Swamiji, Co-Founder and Chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, shared “Devi Swasth toh Desh Swasth. When the Divine Feminine is healthy, the nation is healthy. Menstrual health and hygiene is not a concern only for women and girls but for all of our society. Menstrual hygiene management is life management. We need to break the social taboo surrounding menstruation, and there’s a two-pronged way to do so: Education. Awareness. Let us create MHH Lab and MHH Friendly toilets in all schools and public locations. If we work together, I know the message will reach everyone. Let us pledge today to break the silence and eradicate the stigma and taboo around menstruation. Let us create the 4A Program – Acceptability, Availability, Affordability and Accessibility to improve MHH in our country.“
India Coordinator of WSSCC Shri Vinod Mishraji added, “Menstrual Health and Hygiene does not only relate to women and girls. It relates to the reproductive system of the human being, so if you think of the health and hygiene of menstruation, you’re actually thinking about the health and hygiene of human beings. Human health can only be assured if you ensure menstrual health and hygiene. Once we achieve that, we can achieve the goal of sanitation for the entire country. To do that, we must break the silence around Menstrual Health. We must ensure proper facilities for proper Menstrual Health and Hygiene, and we must guarantee safe disposal of the Menstrual products. Then, we can ensure proper health for all.”
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawatiji meanwhile shared, “We should not make it sound like Menstruation is an illness. It’s not a problem. We need to stop calling it my ‘monthly problem,’ or ‘monthly illness.’ It is a monthly, beautiful opportunity to remember that the Divine has put the power of Creation into the bodies of women. That’s why we menstruate. There can only be creation where there is menstruation! So, the time of menstruation is actually a time to feel inspired and uplifted, a time we should remember to be up, not down. When we speak about Menstrual Health we have to be clear that it’s about ensuring that this core, beautiful aspect of women’s lives that intersects every other aspect of their lives is filled with both physical and emotional health, with empowerment and upliftment.”
More consultations and dialogue are planned in the future to continue the momentum provided by today’s gathering and to galavanize these different stakeholders for improving MHH.