Around the world, girls are less likely to graduate from secondary school than boys. Millions of girls are missing their classes during their periods, which deprives them of getting a quality education. There are many reason for this, mostly due to lack of facilities,of information and of sanitary products.
Culturally, in India, menstruations are considered dirty and impure and during periods girls are discouraged to attend school and stay home. The unavailability of sanitary pads, inadeguate sanitation and absence of separate toilet for girls in schools, has a huge impact on girl school attendance and is a major reason of dropout of girls from school. The main challenges at schools are identified as lack of soap, clean toilets, clean water privacy and sanitary pads supply. Moreover, there’s no facility to dispose of the soiled sanitary towels and no private area for girls to change their underwear or sanitary napkins and manage their hygiene. Menstruation continues to be a subject of gender disparity in India, because of a lack of awareness makes for a major problem in India’s menstrual hygiene scenario.
In Delhi, 40% of girls in government schools stay home during periods, for reasons such as unavailability of private place to manage periods, lack of running water supply, absence of disposal system for pads/clothes and lack of bathroom for girls. Girls are forced to stay away from school because toilets are open and there’s no privacy and also girls are hesitant to seek permission to go home. The reasons for absenteeism are different, one of the most frequent one is the lack of running water supply. Out of six girls, one school had no separate toilets for girls. Many girls complained that the toilets did not have regular water supply, forcing them to stay at home during menstruation. Additionally, cramps and shame are an incentive to drop out from school.
For some parents, puberty also indicates a sign of maturity for girls: time for them to get married. Thus, improving sanitation facilities and hygiene services could have a great impact on improving girls’ attendance in school. There’s an urgent need to improve basic facilities to cut out absenteeism. The solution is Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), that it is the access of adeguate information, preparation, and support to manage menstruation in a healthy, safe way. It can further social and economic empowerment and growth. MHM need the involvement of teachers whom are fundamental to reach out girls with correct information and skills to manage their periods. Girls and teachers have to discuss on menstruation.
Keep girls in school is not only important for their own health and well-being but for the success of the entire community. When a girl finishes secondary school, she is less likely to experience child marriage, face domestic abuse and suffer from long-term complications. As a result, educated women are more likely to have fewer, healthier children, who are then more likely to get an education and pull themselves out of poverty. MHM can affect the community also through demanding need for privacy for managing their periods could persuade their parents to construct toilet at home, the break of taboos surrounding periods and to carry out message on hygiene practice into their households and community.
Some measures that can improve the situations can be are the development of water and sanitation facilities in school girls’ toilets including the incinerator for safe disposal of napkins have shown its impact on the school attendance. This can reduce the dropout rate of girls in school. In 2015 the government of India launched national guidelines on MHM to respond to nearly 113 million millions adolescent girls’ at risk of dropping out of school due to the start of menarche. One of the surveys that informed the National Guidelines found that in 14,724 government schools only 53% had a separate and usable girls’ toilet.
We, at HEEALS, believe that MHM is fundamental for girls’ education and improvement. That’s why we implemented MHM measures into our programs for girls our school, through our Menstrual Hygiene and Girl Education Project in which we give girls classes on the importance of menstrual hygiene practices, free booklets and sanitary pads in Northern regions of India.