The rights and needs of the fairer sex being overlooked by a male dominated society is not something that is unheard of. Access to education, health services and sanitation are given a cold shoulder when it concerns women.
Of particular import is the menstrual hygiene of adolescent girls. The plight of pubescent girls in a male dominated school setting and society on the whole is extremely delicate. This is much more acute when it comes to girls from disadvantaged communities – both social and economical.
The onset of puberty brings along with it a sack load of concerns. Girls do not have access to sanitary products to keep themselves hygienic during menses. In some communities, the onset of puberty is seen as the right time to abruptly put an end to the education of the girl child.
The Nagaland Experience
Adolescence is probably the most crucial period of a person’s life where several physical, mental and emotional changes take place. Perceptions and desires that have a huge impact on decision making later on in life tend to get solidified during this period. Any intervention that seeks to have a lasting effect on children should be timed to coincide with this.
The Nagaland Government in association with Sulabh International launched a scheme to address the hygiene needs of adolescent girls and boys. The idea was to impart menstrual hygiene and sex related life skill education to the pubescent school children.
Teachers and students from schools in Kohima, Dimapur, and Mokokchung took part in related training programmes. The first such programme was formally inaugurated by the Public Health Engineering Minister, Dr. Ngangshi K. Ao in October 2010. A sanitary napkin dispensing machine was also inaugurated, bringing cheer to hundreds of girl children still using the relatively less-hygienic cloth pads during menses.
The Sulabh School Sanitation Club also came out with a booklet on Menstrual Hygiene Management, the first of its kind in North-East India. The book breaks down menstrual hygiene in an easily comprehendible manner and clarifies taboos and myths relating to menstruation and female sexual health.
With an assorted array of mores and traditional protocols, integrating education relating to female menstrual hygiene management and sex assumes more significance in countries like India. With timely guidance and support from the state and school administration, getting the message across to school children may no longer be an insurmountable task.