Saturday, March 19, 2011

68% Indian rural women can’t afford sanitary napkins--survey

by Neharika Sabharwal - February 28, 2011            

Despite good menstrual hygiene being a crucial part of every girl and woman’s life, the taboo surrounding this important sanitation issue in India prevents them from articulating their needs.
As a result, the problems and the proper requirements for managing menstruation have been ignored or misunderstood.
Gynecologist Dr Malvika Sabharwal from Jeewan Mala hospital added, "Talking about menstrual health is still a societal taboo. Women are barred from entering temples and kitchens at such times. Some don't even take a bath during periods. Such practices need to change.
Women menstruating should take a bath more than twice a day and change sanitary towels thrice a day. Unhygienic practices could lead to ascendinginfections -- bacteria entering the urinary tract or uterus from outside."
A nationwide survey
A nationwide survey into the menstrual hygiene management was carried out in October by community development organisation Plan India.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers questioned 1,033 women of menstrual age and 151gynecologists.
The survey found extremely low levels of feminine hygiene care, which is a matter of grave concern for the overall health and development of Indian women.
Though print and visual media are full of sanitary napkin (SN) advertisements, from a total of the 355 million menstruating women in the nation just 12 percent use them.
The study found that awareness on the basic health and feminine hygiene is very low. Approximately 75 percent of the women respondents were not psychologically prepared for menstruation.
Financial constraints make it difficult for a major section of the women to buy quality sanitary napkins, with merely 68 percent of the rural communities able to afford them.
Many women and girls resort to unhygienic sanitary practices like cloths, sand and ash which make them vulnerable to infections and diseases.
The survey highlighted the fact that 81 percent rural women use unsterilised cloths since they are relatively cheaper than sanitary napkins.
It was also noted that 45 percent re-use cloth while 70 percent dry the cloth in the shade which can fuel the odds of infections.
Other findings of the survey
In the survey, nearly 31 percent women reported a drop in productivity levels during their periods and missed on an average 2.2 days of work.
Adolescent girls in rural India do not know how to manage their menstrual cycles and are forced to go back home if their periods start in school. As a result they end up missing nearly 50 days of schooling.
The survey found 23 percent of the rural adolescent girls (aged 12-18 years) quit studies because of improper sanitary facilities in schools.
Nearly 97 percent of the gynecologists questioned felt that sanitary napkins can thwart reproductive tractinfections, while 64 percent believe napkins lower the risk of cervical cancer.
The state of feminine hygiene was worst in eastern India with 83 percent of the respondents saying their families can't afford napkins.
Nearly 70 percent of those who use cloth feel insecure during periods and wished they had better knowledge on the subject.
Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director, Plan India stated, "Menstruation is a subject that has culturally been considered a taboo and is entrenched with misconceptions and disregard, with little cognisance of the hazards of inadequate menstrual protection.
"The survey has highlighted how the subject of feminine hygiene is grossly neglected at all levels."

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