Is Lack of Menstrual Hygiene Education Causing Girls to Drop Out of School?

Is Lack of Menstrual Hygiene Education Causing Girls to Drop Out of School?

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In India, many girls are forced to leave school early or face exclusion during their menstrual cycle each month due to social exclusion and a lack of education about menstrual hygiene. This practice is still popular in vast swathes of India’s rural hinterland, where girls in school frequently lack awareness and understanding of menstrual hygiene.

Every year, over 23 million girls in India stop attending school because of their periods.

Families often remove their girls from school when menstruation starts because they believe they are now of “reproductive age.” In some cases, children are given little choice but to leave school since the facilities are inadequate to meet their demands. According to a survey, the percentage of females in the menarche group who attend school shows a 12% decline.

Proper education is denied to millions of girls

Most adolescent girls in India don’t know they’re menstruating until they get their first period. As a result, many of them stop attending school. Due to a lack of adequate menstrual hygiene management services, such as the availability of sanitary pads and information on menstruation, millions of girls drop out of school each year.

Public health professionals and organizations operating in this area also highlight a lack of basic amenities like access to latrines and clean water, along with societal stigmas, harassment, and taboos.

Discrimination 

According to Vandana Prasad, a community pediatrician and public health expert who has worked on reproductive health issues with women and girls in tribal and rural areas for more than 20 years, menstruation is a significant public health issue that causes enormous struggles and difficulties on many levels. During their periods, girls experience a variety of types of discrimination, including being denied access to certain foods and places such as kitchens and temples physically, and in rare cases, being forced to spend a few days in an outhouse.

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Menstrual supplies are out of reach

In addition to the mental and psychological strain, it is extremely difficult for teenagers at school to obtain sanitary pads, dispose of them properly, and maintain personal hygiene. In addition to their existing poor health, nutrition, education, and social position, it is a monthly additional load of pain for impoverished girls and women, increasing their marginalization and placing them at a disadvantage. 

Anshu Gupta, who quit his corporate job to found Goonj, a nonprofit that started producing inexpensive sanitary pads out of waste cloth for rural women, thinks the problem needs to be reexamined through a fresh set of eyes. There are numerous difficulties to this complicated problem, but it is crucial to have accessibility, affordability, and menstrual hygiene awareness.

The stigma around social issues

Due to taboos and sociocultural restrictions, teenage girls frequently remain ignorant of the scientific facts and sanitary health practices related to menstruation and menstrual practices, which can occasionally result in health issues. In families and communities, this silence about menstruation breeds shame and embarrassment.

Once their daughters start having periods, families start to worry about social issues. They worry that the girls will be more susceptible to sexual assault. They worry that females would engage in sexual activity and relationships, but the main concern is that girls might fall in love with men from “lower castes”.

Menstruation is a taboo topic that is not openly discussed

Age-appropriate and standardized sex education is believed by many experts to be the most effective solution to this problem. Sex education covers a wide range of topics, including intimate relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, the importance of consent and responsibilities, contraception, and scientific knowledge about bodily functions like menstruation.

Lack of basic infrastructure and knowledge

Lack of basic infrastructure and knowledge can make menstruation a challenging experience for girls and women. Maintaining hygiene, privacy, and comfort during menstruation requires appropriate infrastructure, such as well-equipped restrooms with working door knobs. Tampons and menstrual cups can provide alternatives to traditional menstrual products, but they require knowledge and information to use correctly.

Period bullying

Period bullying, in which peers or teachers make fun of or tease girls for menstrual-related issues, has been linked to school dropouts. To promote equitable education, the National Education Policy 2020 includes a commitment to a Gender Inclusion Fund. However, this fund does not specifically mention Menstrual hygiene management (MHM), and existing MHM programs have been ineffective.

Intervention and participation by various stakeholders are necessary to change attitudes and behaviour towards menstrual hygiene management. Gender-sensitive training programs for teaching and non-teaching employees should be mandatory, and MHM programs should be taken seriously and given the necessary resources. By addressing these issues, we can promote a more inclusive and respectful learning environment for girls and women.

 

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