The gathering included Santha Sheela Nair, Secretary,
Department of Drinking Water Supply, Gautam Budhha Mukherjee, Secretary, Tribal
Welfare, Ann Hasselbalch, Deputy Director, UNICEF, Lizette Burgers, Chief,
Water and Sanitation Section and many other officials from the government,
other agencies and UNICEF India.
Although menstrual hygiene is an issue that every girl and
woman has to deal with in her life, there is lack of information on the process
of menstruation, the physical and psychological changes associated with puberty
and proper requirements for managing menstruation. The taboos surrounding this
issue in the society prevents girls and women from articulating their needs and
the problems of poor menstrual hygiene management have been ignored or
Good menstrual hygiene is crucial for the health, education,
and dignity of girls and women. This is an important sanitation issue which has
long been in the closet and there was a long standing need to openly discuss
Delivering her address on the occasion, Santha Sheela Nair
said "Being a woman myself, I found that besides every other need, there was
also a huge issue of menstrual hygiene and women needed privacy and facilities
for dealing with menstrual hygiene".
Equipping adolescent girls with adequate information and
skills on menstrual hygiene and its management is seen as empowering them with
knowledge which enhances their self-esteem and academic performance.
UNICEF developed the guidance booklet on Menstrual Hygiene
Management which will serve as a self reference and support girls and women in
providing basic factual information about menstruation and its hygienic
management will also clarify some of the myths and taboos centered on this
A short advocacy film has also been developed that focuses
on the importance of menstrual hygiene and low cost sanitary napkin production
Sharing her experience and the convenience low cost sanitary
napkins has provided her, Mohana, a 8th standard student from Nemelli Village,
Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu said " Earlier we did not know how to manage
and were forced to go back home if our periods started in school. Now, we have
to just keep an extra napkin in our school bag and thus are prepared anytime"
Impressed with the low cost sanitary napkin production and
the vending machine installed in schools on an experimental basis, Mukherjee
saw its huge relevance in tribal society and schools.
"I was so impressed by the way in which such interventions
helped in building confidence and safeguarding the dignity of young women and
adolescent girls", he said.
With 2008 being the International Year of Sanitation (IYS),
the Total Sanitation Campaign of the Government of India acquires added
The focus on menstrual hygiene management is an essential
part of promoting hygiene and sanitation amongst adolescent girls and women who
constitute approximately 45 per cent of the total female population.
Lizette Burgers stressed "From the age of around 12
and until she reaches the menopause somewhere in her 40's, every girl and woman
has to deal with it. Overall, she spends approximately 2,100 days menstruating
which is equivalent to almost six years of her life. So, there is no question
that girls and women need to be equipped with proper information on how to
handle this issue best for their health and dignity."