Mumbai: Each month, billions of girls throughout the globe expertise menstruation, a pure organic course of that’s important to human replica. But, it has been a topic typically handled with secrecy, disgrace, and restricted understanding.
Nonetheless, occasions are altering, and a strong motion is rising to problem the taboos and misconceptions surrounding menstrual well being. More and more, girls and organisations are coming collectively to advocate for higher consciousness, entry to assets, and improved help programs for ladies throughout their menstrual cycles.
Through the years, this has led to a surge within the vary of services and products in the direction of the identical. Ladies’s well being wants, akin to menstrual well being, sexual well being, maternal well being, and menopause, are being acknowledged and catered to.
On World Menstrual Hygiene Day, ETHealthworld spoke to varied stakeholders advocating and selling higher menstrual well being on essential elements of menstrual hygiene merchandise, specializing in their security, availability, and affordability. By addressing considerations about product security, exploring the limitations to accessibility, discussing the impression of excessive prices, elevating consciousness, and empowering people to make knowledgeable selections about their menstrual well being.
Reducing-edge applied sciences function
Femtech as an idea is rising in India at a progressive price. The well being business, holistically, is arising with lots of improvements and technological developments to deal with a number of well being points associated to girls. Begin-ups, NGOs, and authorities our bodies are utilizing a number of applied sciences and communication instruments to succeed in out to girls and construct consciousness round menstrual, reproductive, maternal well being, and extra.
“The Femtech business, combines the appliance of science and cutting-edge know-how to create items, providers, wearables, and software program that meet varied well being and wellness wants of girls, has given delivery to varied merchandise, together with menstrual hygiene merchandise like high-quality menstrual cups, non-toxic sanitary napkins, natural tampons, to call a couple of,” mentioned Dr Preety Aggarwal, Medical Director, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Motherhood Hospital, Gurgaon.
She additional elaborated on how manufacturers are investing in the direction of natural and non-toxic sanitary merchandise to get rid of the long-term results of utilizing sanitary napkins that use harsh chemical substances of their merchandise. A whole lot of manufacturers provide merchandise like warmth patches to subside interval ache and customisable sanitary pads that are subscription-based and thus assist enhance the patron expertise and supply them with the required consolation delivered to their doorstep with minimal effort.
Commenting on technological developments occurring in healthcare, Sujata Pawar, Co-founder and CEO, Avni, added, “Integration of AI Instruments on varied apps to trace the menstrual cycle and different essential physique parameters has been available in the market for a very long time. It has been additional getting improvised to get higher and extra correct outcomes.”
Citing an initiative by PRADAN, with the help of the IKEA Basis and Eco Femme, the place people and know-how assist girls throughout their menstrual cycles. Shainy Ghosh, Government, PRADAN, Purulia, West Bengal, shared, “In sure districts of West Bengal, consciousness across the topic is unfold by means of image playing cards, storytelling, movies, video games, haemoglobin camps, and in addition taking out rallies in villages the place the women stroll round with sanitary napkins and placards. They’ve additionally had intensive discussions round sustainable and eco-friendly methods of practising menstrual hygiene, the place earlier we launched them to biodegradable pads and made sanitary napkins accessible by means of ‘pad corners’ of their villages.”
Disparities in accessing menstrual merchandise
Menstrual well being is an important facet of the general well-being of girls, and but it stays a subject wrapped in silence and stigma, significantly in rural areas of India. Restricted entry to sanitary merchandise, insufficient hygiene practises, and an absence of correct diet worsen the scenario, negatively impacting girls’s well being. It’s thus essential to empower rural girls by selling hygiene and correct diet for menstrual well being.
In response to the Nationwide Household Well being Survey 2019–2021, 38.8 per cent of women between the ages 15-19 and 46.3 per cent of women between the ages 20-24 in West Bengal use material items throughout menstruation, which is taken into account unsafe. These unhygienic practises and carelessness can result in a number of health-related points and even crucial sicknesses like cervical most cancers, reproductive tract infections, hepatitis B an infection, urinary tract an infection, and extra. Virtually 20 million women drop out of faculty yearly as a consequence of an absence of hygiene, bogs, and sanitary napkins in India.
Expressing shock on the accessibility to menstrual hygiene merchandise, quoting a survey, Dr Aggarwal remarked, “Not less than 500 million individuals worldwide expertise interval poverty every month. 12 per cent of India’s 355 million menstruating girls can not afford interval provides. Many ladies, each in developed and growing nations, might discover interval merchandise to be financially out of their attain. Interval poverty is a critical concern. It describes the elevated financial vulnerability that girls and women expertise because of the price of menstrual provides like menstrual pads, tampons, and different associated bills like painkillers and underwear.”
Individuals in precarious conditions each globally and in quite a few locations in India must make sacrifices with their small meals budgets or take care of well being issues because of an absence of available sanitary provides and services. One other essential issue that impacts menstrual hygiene and contributes to interval poverty is the dearth of sanitation infrastructure like bogs, correct pad disposal services, lack of handwashing areas.
Voicing that disparity just isn’t availability however lack of know-how. Pawar acknowledged, “Customers are much less conscious of the great high quality and sustainable merchandise which might be accessible available in the market. We firmly consider that with consciousness comes buyer demand, which results in the provision of merchandise. Customers in developed international locations are extra conscious of the varied product choices, and that’s additionally mirrored of their consumption patterns. Inside India, there must be a higher quantity of labor to be achieved on the grassroots stage to extend consciousness and induce utilization of good-quality merchandise.”
Discussing the varied menstrual hygiene merchandise accessible available in the market, Niveda Ravikumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Bliss Pure, added, “Menstrual cups have an enormous cultural taboo, and it may be messy. The usability could be very onerous and might trigger allergic reactions and vaginal irritation. The preliminary worth can also be excessive.”
She additional elaborated that in earlier occasions, girls relied on material supplies for his or her menstrual wants as a consequence of restricted choices. Nonetheless, this method proved to be unhygienic and fewer absorbent, prompting a shift in the direction of plastic disposable pads. Presently, there’s a renewed curiosity amongst girls in switching again to material pads as a consequence of environmental considerations. Nonetheless, this transition presents challenges for contemporary girls. Material pads require extra time for laundry and drying in comparison with the comfort of disposable pads, making them much less sensible for busy life. Moreover, material pads are usually dearer initially, bulkier to hold, and availability could also be restricted, inflicting discomfort and inconvenience for individuals who go for them.
Commenting on the natural cotton pads accessible available in the market, Ravikumar commented, “These pads are largely imported and really tough to make use of. It’s priced too excessive that it isn’t appropriate for all courses of individuals. The absorbency could be very much less and these merchandise aren’t licensed additionally.”
Excessive price related to menstrual hygiene merchandise
The excessive price of menstrual hygiene merchandise can create limitations to entry, significantly for people with restricted monetary assets. This may result in insufficient menstrual hygiene practises, which can enhance the chance of infections and different well being points. It might additionally contribute to social and academic inequalities, as some people might face challenges attending faculty or work as a consequence of insufficient entry to menstrual merchandise.
“Efforts ought to be made to deal with this situation and make sure that menstrual hygiene merchandise are inexpensive and accessible to all. Governments, policymakers, and organisations can play an important function in advocating for diminished taxes on these merchandise and even offering them without spending a dime in public locations akin to colleges, workplaces, and neighborhood centres. Such initiatives may help alleviate the monetary burden and promote higher menstrual well being,” commented Dr Aggarwal.
Pawar added, “Any family’s well being is judged by the well being of the ladies in the home. We consider that funding in good high quality menstrual merchandise must be seen as an funding in the direction of higher well being and well-being of girls within the household. This is step one of training and consciousness that must be pushed throughout all age teams and strata of society, together with girls themselves. A superb high quality menstrual product not solely ensures good well being but additionally helps in lowering prices concerned within the after-effects of the utilization of poor-quality merchandise.”
Ravikumar noticed, “Solely 57 per cent of girls are accessible to sanitary pads due to the affordability and consciousness. Reasonably priced merchandise are a lot wanted available in the market that don’t have an effect on the setting.
Menstrual merchandise utilized by city girls are comparatively high-priced, contemplating the affordability ratio amongst city girls is method larger. Additionally, city training and prosperous girls go for aspirational merchandise, that are brand-led.
Nonetheless, in relation to the menstrual well being of underprivileged girls, in city or rural India, each the private and non-private sectors are working in the direction of affordability and low-cost merchandise.
“The centre launched the Jan Aushadhi Suvidha scheme to supply sanitary napkins at Rs 1. Equally, initiatives like ‘Undertaking Baala’, led by an alumnus from Cornell and Warwick College, have been taken up to make sure that each menstruator has entry to inexpensive and sustainable menstrual hygiene options. It has held over 1,100 workshops throughout India and has given out 350,000 reusable pads as of June 2022,” shared Ghosh.
She additional added, “This 12 months, the New Delhi Municipal Company (NDMC) determined to begin with the distribution of sanitary napkins to girls ‘Safai Sewaks’ each month. Many states are taking initiatives to distribute sanitary napkins without spending a dime in authorities colleges in order that adolescent women don’t persist with the practise of carrying garments.”
Security of sustainable merchandise
Merchandise that declare to be sustainable, akin to reusable menstrual cups or material pads, may be protected when used correctly and with correct hygiene practises.
Sharing some factors to contemplate whereas selecting menstrual hygiene merchandise, Dr Aggarwal advised, “It’s essential to decide on merchandise constituted of high-quality supplies which might be protected to be used. Respected manufacturers typically present details about the supplies used of their merchandise, akin to medical-grade silicone for menstrual cups or natural cotton for material pads.”
Commenting on cleansing and upkeep, she famous that correct cleansing and upkeep are important for making certain the protection and hygiene of reusable merchandise. Producers normally present detailed directions on the right way to clear and sanitise the merchandise successfully.
Reusable menstrual merchandise, like menstrual cups and material pads, have a lifespan. It is very important observe the producer’s pointers on when to exchange them. Over time, these merchandise might put on out, lose their form, or develop indicators of injury, which may compromise their effectiveness and security.
“Customers of sustainable menstrual merchandise ought to practise good private hygiene throughout their menstrual cycles. This consists of washing arms earlier than and after dealing with the merchandise, following correct insertion and elimination strategies for menstrual cups, and altering material pads frequently to keep away from extended publicity to menstrual fluid,” suggested Dr Aggarwal. “When you have any particular considerations or questions, it is all the time a good suggestion to seek the advice of with a healthcare skilled or gynaecologist.”
Asserting that sustainable manufacturers are utilizing good-quality uncooked supplies. Pawar advised checking the provision of legitimate high quality certifications with the merchandise or the provision of claims.
Bridging hole between sustainable and traditional menstrual hygiene merchandise
Menstrual hygiene is a grave situation in India, particularly amongst underprivileged girls, which must be addressed by means of a collaborative method. A whole lot of progress has taken place in the previous couple of years by means of coaching programmes, awareness-building programmes, campaigns, and the free distribution of sanitary napkins for each city and rural girls.
Sharing some statistics, Ghosh commented, “In rural areas, girls aged 15–24 years, who used hygienic strategies of safety (domestically ready napkins, sanitary napkins) elevated by 24.1 per cent; from 48.2 per cent in 2015-16 to 72.3 per cent in 2019-21. The urban-rural hole in utilizing protected strategies of menstrual safety has additionally been diminished. The very best enchancment has been seen in rural areas of Odisha (42.8 per cent to 79.5 per cent), Rajasthan (47.9 per cent to 81.9 per cent) and West Bengal (47.6 per cent to 79.7 per cent) between 2015-16 and 2019-21.”
She additional famous that extra collaboration amongst states and centres is required to enhance the progress price. “NGOs/ CSOs/ Employees from central and state governments/ neighborhood leaders, panchayats must work collectively in the direction of constructing a story in opposition to altering the age-old beliefs in the direction of menstruation and make individuals settle for the hygienic lifestyle. CHGs and SHGs must be activated extra within the rural pockets in order that they will tackle the distinctive challenges girls face and supply them with the wanted information and assets,” concluded Ghosh.
Bridging the hole between sustainable and cost-effective options to standard menstrual hygiene merchandise requires a multi-faceted method involving varied stakeholders.
Suggesting methods to enhance the menstrual well being situations of girls Dr Aggarwal talked about that continued analysis can drive revolutionary, inexpensive, and eco-friendly menstrual hygiene merchandise. Consciousness, coverage adjustments, and collaborations could make sustainable choices extra accessible and cost-effective. Ravikumar added that the consolation and cost-effectiveness of sustainable options can bridge this hole, to which Pawar added that by selling consciousness and shifting client mindsets, we will drive change in how menstrual care and hygiene are perceived.
With elevated consciousness and a shift in client mindsets, collectively, the limitations surrounding menstrual care and hygiene may be damaged, making a society the place girls’s well-being is totally supported and celebrated.
The journey in the direction of empowering girls by means of menstrual well being is marked by important progress in addition to ongoing challenges. The shift in the direction of natural and non-toxic sanitary merchandise, coupled with revolutionary options to deal with interval ache and customisable experiences, showcases a rising dedication to girls’s well-being. Nonetheless, you will need to acknowledge the difficulties confronted by girls in adopting sustainable options, such because the time-consuming nature of material pads and their preliminary price.