68% Indian rural women can’t afford sanitary napkins–survey

The MedGuru

by Neharika Sabharwal – February 28, 2011

Despite good menstrual hygiene being a crucial part of every girl and woman’s life, the taboo surrounding this important sanitation issue in India prevents them from articulating their needs.

As a result, the problems and the proper requirements for managing menstruation have been ignored or misunderstood.

Gynecologist Dr Malvika Sabharwal from Jeewan Mala hospital added, “Talking about menstrual health is still a societal taboo. Women are barred from entering temples and kitchens at such times. Some don’t even take a bath during periods. Such practices need to change.

Women menstruating should take a bath more than twice a day and change sanitary towels thrice a day. Unhygienic practices could lead to ascending infections — bacteria entering the urinary tract or uterus from outside.”

A nationwide survey
A nationwide survey into the menstrual hygiene management was carried out in October by community development organisation Plan India.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers questioned 1,033 women of menstrual age and 151 gynecologists.

The survey found extremely low levels of feminine hygiene care, which is a matter of grave concern for the overall health and development of Indian women.

Though print and visual media are full of sanitary napkin (SN) advertisements, from a total of the 355 million menstruating women in the nation just 12 percent use them.

The study found that awareness on the basic health and feminine hygiene is very low. Approximately 75 percent of the women respondents were not psychologically prepared for menstruation.

Financial constraints make it difficult for a major section of the women to buy quality sanitary napkins, with merely 68 percent of the rural communities able to afford them.

Many women and girls resort to unhygienic sanitary practices like cloths, sand and ash which make them vulnerable to infections and diseases.

The survey highlighted the fact that 81 percent rural women use unsterilised cloths since they are relatively cheaper than sanitary napkins.

It was also noted that 45 percent re-use cloth while 70 percent dry the cloth in the shade which can fuel the odds of infections.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.