Prioritising Menstrual Health Critical To India’s Growth Story
Menstrual Health Investment Index is a mere 1.2 per cent of India’s GDP per capita, while disposable period products are unaffordable for a large section of the population. India can, however, make significant economic gains to its GDP by 2.7 per cent, by addressing period poverty
Data indicates that 27 per cent of young rural women still utilise unsanitary means of protection during their menstrual cycle. The National Family Health Survey - 5, also highlights how additionally, 57 per cent of rural women and 50 per cent of all respondents said they have used cloth for the purpose at some point.
Despite multiple campaigns by both the Centre and non-profit organisations promoting sexual and reproductive health and menstrual hygiene, both of which play a key role in empowering women, a large section of the women who menstruate have inadequate access to information and services and are unable to exercise their rights throughout their life cycle.
Mr. Biswanath Sinha, Director – Policy & Technical Support, WaterAid India, said “Menstrual Health and hygiene is of crucial significance in ensuring the overall well-being of women and adolescent girls. Data from World Bank show how on a given day, out of 300 million women worldwide who are menstruating, an estimated 500 million lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for Menstrual Hygiene Management while 4.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation facilities.”
“Menstrual Health Investment Index is a mere 1.2 per cent of India’s GDP per capita, while disposable period products are unaffordable for a large section of the population. India can, however, make significant economic gains to its GDP by 2.7 per cent, by addressing period poverty,” Sinha added.
Sinha also said that it is absolutely crucial to address these challenges by introducing policies addressing menstrual health concerns and increasing investment in meeting such requirements so that menstrual hygiene becomes accessible and affordable for all. This should be done in combination with extensive training of healthcare providers and the upgradation of existing infrastructure for the purpose of ensuring menstrual health for all.
The pandemic further disrupted any strategic progress made to address societal issues around menstruation, with the lockdown negatively impacting women’s access to essential sanitary products, facilities, and information.
Ms. Anjali Singhania, Specialist – WASH in Institutions, Hygiene and Behaviour Change, WaterAid India, said, “Menstrual Health should be addressed from the perspective of a value chain, and not merely from the narrow lens of distribution of sanitary products. Ensuring Menstrual Health entails that menstruators have access to quality products, such that they are provided with a basket of options to choose from, female-friendly toilet infrastructure including running water, handwashing facility with soap, lock, appropriate disposal systems, and access to information on the use of products, as well as the biological aspect of menstruation.”
Singhania believes that to address menstrual health, a collaborative approach is required that involves various government departments and development organizations working on menstrual hygiene. There is also an urgent need to address menstrual hygiene management for all individuals, including persons with disabilities, gender-diverse identities, and menstruators living and experiencing climate-induced disasters, who are so far left out of the ambit, mostly unknowingly.