The problem is partially rooted in institutions, who having imperceptibly supplanted traditional & cultural rites of passage often fail to recognize the extent of the need for robust, wholistic and sustained alternatives. Girls experiencing menarche not only require WASH infrastructure, but meaning; they not only need materials, space and privacy to change and dispose of menstrual products, but an environment free from aspersions, taboo and social restriction.
Over this long Holi weekend, I finally caught up with Padman - the Bollywood movie that tells the inspiring, real life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham – a school drop-out and social entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu who invented a low cost, sanitary pad making machine, and distributed pads to under-privileged women across India.
Muruganantham’s lifelong mission to create awareness about unhygienic practices and taboos around menstrual health, especially among rural Indian women, has now been recognised globally.
I could never have imagined a macho Hindi film ‘Hero’ testing and trying out sanitary pads to make his wife’s life easier!
Menstrual health and hygiene are huge gender and public health issues in India. More than half of India’s women between 15 and 24 years of age lack access to hygienic protection measures during menstruation (National Family Health Survey 2015-16).