Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Menstrual health remains a prime concern in spite of govt efforts

Mail News Service

Jamshedpur, Sept 22: At one point in time, women during their menstruation period were kept in separate rooms and forbidden to venture out till the monthly cycle was over. In fact, the women themselves were considered taboo. The mention of ‘one point in time’ unfortunately does not signify days of distant yore especially in rural areas where women’s empowerment is still an abstract quantum, given the fact that several NGOs and state and central government agencies are moving out to ‘human habitations’ where apart from rustic ways and weak touches of modern times like erratic or no power supply and availability of potable water, understanding the needs of women still remain a far cry. The only ‘heartening’ point is that the importance of the ‘tribe of mothers’ is being realized however faintly, by society in general but the pace of such realization is a wee bit better than that of snails.

“However, the fact remains that in spite of science introducing new and healthy concepts in the socio-economic realms, a lack of access to primary healthcare and awareness about menstrual health and hygiene are proving to be major deterrents in both, state and central government endeavors towards women empowerment,” observed Tanisha Sawa, a Class XII student at Loyola High School in Jamshedpur.

Tanisha recently published a study conducted in several tribal villages in Jharkhand to access the state of health facilities available in these rural climes. In her study that was recently published in International Journal of Latest Research in Humanities and Social Science (IJLRHSS), Tanisha Sawa found that over 60 percent women could not discuss issues related to menstrual health with their own husbands. Her study revealed that although there had been a slight increase in use of sanitary products among tribal women, yet 35 percent of them were still forced to use cloth or other unsafe material to absorb menstrual blood. She said, “Various studies, including those by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, indicate very high rate of urinary tract infection cases among women in tribal belts. These studies are based on reported cases; but most women do not even report the cases either because of persisting stigma or on the grounds that the primary health centres (PHC) are too far from their homes.”

Interacting with villagers of Domuhani, Gilapani, Kamargora, Kapali Basti and other in and around these rural localities, Tanisha Sawa found that 75 percent of these people found that district hospitals were too far from their villages. In her intensive research report, she mentioned, “While 65 percent informed that they had local PHCs, 60 percent stated that facilities and services at such centres were very poor. More than 75 percent of the rural people complained that they had no access to government health schemes.”

The Std XII Loyola student who has been ceaselessly championing the cause of menstrual health awareness in her school and locality, averred, “The status of women in these rural, mostly tribal communities is disconcertingly low that results in their overall lower levels of autonomy in their community,” and suggests, “We need to analyze why and how women are not being provided knowledge on personal hygiene especially during their menstruation cycles. Government efforts like Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) and Free Pads for India (FPI), in spite of their sincere intents, lack effectiveness, perhaps, due to inadequate awareness drives especially in distant areas like the villages where I had carried out my survey. I am sorry to note that there is minimal knowledge about menstruation hygiene even among adolescent girls. Most rural women in Jharkhand do not even have access to quality sanitary napkins.”

In her report, Tanisha Sawa referred, “In 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the Rs 12,000 crore programme that guarantees the nationwide availability sanitary napkins at just Re 1 per piece from Janaushadhi outlets under the PM Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojna.  But the fallacy of this otherwise noble project is that neither is there a Janaushadhi outlet near at hand nor are the locals aware of this government programme,” rued Tanisha who, however, is determined to break the persisting jinx and bring these long neglected pointers to the fore.

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