Amongst the numerous struggles of women and girls across the country go through regularly is the continuous struggle against various fungal infections, Reproductive Tract Infection and Urinary Tract Infection caused as a result of poor menstrual hygiene which can also be detrimental to fertility. Of the 355 million menstruating women in India, only 12 per cent use sanitary napkins. The biggest barrier to adoption of quality sanitary napkins in India turned out to be “affordability and accessibility” as nearly 70 percent of women can’t afford sanitary napkins. Over 88% of women resort to shocking alternatives like un-sanitized cloth (old rags), ashes and husk sand during menstruation, thereby causing severe reproductive health problems.
The long-standing myth as well as salient discriminatory practices attached to women especially as a result of their menstrual cycle is no longer a folklore, these factors have directly correlated with absenteeism and drop-out from school by young girls. Nearly 23 million girls drop out of school annually due to lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities, which include availability of sanitary napkins and logical awareness of menstruation, 70 percent of mothers with menstruating daughters considered menstruation as dirty and 71 percent adolescent girls remained unaware of menstruation till menarche (Dasra Report 2014). Findings have shown some cases in rural areas where two-three women of the same family use the same cloth during menstruation, after washing and drying it. This is extremely unhealthy and brings numerous health risks. Sanitary napkins are a luxury in rural areas and small towns. Even if available, women are discouraged from spending on sanitary napkins as old clothes or sand is thought to be good enough for something ‘dirty’ like menstruation, this is as a result of gross misunderstanding that has being passed on from one generation to another (Mothers-Daughters).
Many girls report menstrual hygiene and management related issues as the cause for remaining absent from school, due to the lack of adequate water for washing, lack of soap, and non-inadequate toilets and dispose facilities. Such a situation results in many girls between Standard 5 to 10th abstaining from school for up to 5 days a month and many eventually dropping out.
1. 63% schools in villages, teachers never discussed menstruation and how to deal with it in a hygienic manner.
2. Menstruation is perceived as such a taboo subject that many women are ashamed even to seek medical advice if they face any health problems due to menstruation.
3. Out of 355 Menstruating women in India only 42.6 Million use sanitary napkins.
4. Less than 30% availability of sanitary napkin disposal
5. Lack separate toilets for girls facilities in government schools.
6. 90% of Children often fall sick due to malnutrition and unhygienic conditions
7. School dropouts and absenteeism during chums were common among girls
8. There was no safe drinking water facilities and no waste management system in place
The Myths of Menstruation
Women Will Contaminate Food
In parts of rural India, there is a myth that women cannot water plants or cook during their period because their “uncleanliness” will spoil the food. In a study done in a random school in rural India, 55 percent of girls surveyed believed they could not cook or enter the kitchen during and 4 days after menstruation or food would sour. For more boys and men taking on household chores so that girls in India can get an education, this myth doesn’t help with that.
Girls Cannot Participate in Class
The chaupadi tradition is a practice in rural parts of Nepal where women are literally put in isolation during their period. Again, the reason stems back to “being unclean.” Women cannot be in classrooms with other students while menstruating.
The myth goes back to the belief that a woman’s uncleanliness will anger Hindu goddesses. Dispelling myths like chaupadi where 16 percent of women in Nepal are forced from their homes into isolation is a task that will take effort, education and awareness.
Women Cannot Enter Holy Temples
This myth exists in parts of the world ranging from Bali and India to Nepal. Women are believed to be “unclean” while menstruating and are thus not allowed to enter “clean” and holy places like temples. This is a form of gender inequality that limits women from the same human rights like freedom to practice religion that men have access to.
Girls and women menstruating are not unclean. They are normal, natural, and healthy. The myth that women cannot enter temples and holy ground is culturally controversial, and a sensitive issue. When women are treated differently because of a naturally occurring body cycle it creates shame, taboos, and humiliation towards periods that is deeply embedded into society.
Reaching hand through the Girls Glory program recognizes the need of making government schools healthy and hygienic with the best sanitation facilities that would be of great benefit to students -the girl students mostly importantly, hence the name “GIRLS GLORY”. This program is also in promotion of the sustainable development goals especially goal 3,5 and 6.
In pursuit of a long-term sustainable solution to the problems of menstrual hygiene Reaching Hand has adopted 150 schools since 2012, to empower the stakeholder community which includes schools’ teachers and parents to lead and manage the school sanitation and wash focus.
Reaching Hand is responding to the immediate social needs of vulnerable women and girls as well as putting in place sustainable measures by creating good working relationship between BEO, BRP, CRP, and DDPI which will enable further participation and ownership of the project. Reaching has appointed full time ayammas in schools thereby creating employment opportunities to poor women.
• Conduct workshops on puberty, menstrual health & hygiene among teenage girls aged 11 to 18 in order to bring behavioural change.
• Find out reasons and reduce dropout rates and absenteeism amongst girls-done as per Swachh Bharat and Swachh Vidyalaya campaign.
• Parents Counselling
We construct and refurbish the toilet facilities and we influence behaviour of school children to adopt and maintain these facilities. In this program, we adopt schools for 3 years and make them enable and sustainable for quality outcome.
OUR MISSION: –
1. Improve the living standards of girls and women, providing them with quality menstrual hygiene products free of charge.
2. Improve the overall educational experience of adolescent girls by reducing the school absences and drop-out rate.
3. Increase the number of women and girls who can manage menstruation safely and hygienically.
4. Reduce the likelihood of women and girls developing health problems associated with improper menstruation management.
5. Improve awareness of menstrual health and puberty among young girls aged between 11-18 years.
6. Empower women and girls to see past the social and cultural taboos associated with menstruation and lead a life of dignity and confidence.
Over the years Girls Glory has achieved tremendous results with great testimonies and exceptional feedbacks, however we are not relenting in our movement and desire to see a world where all are included and treated equally, a world where things as basic and necessary as WASH is no longer seen as a luxury but necessity for everyone irrespective.
RH aspires to upscale this program to more number of schools in the coming future and take care of proper wastes manage system-(particularly Incinerators of burning used sanitary pads)
• Promote Hand Wash
• Provide safe drinking water
• Provide for proper waste management system
• Actively partner and upscale the project to adopt more schools.
According to UNICEF, “education for girls can be fostered by something as basic as a girls-only toilet” these words might be light in weight, but they carry a lot of valuable facts, toilet play key role in the overall functioning of a school. The objective of the program is to raise awareness on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for 2000 underprivileged young girls’ studying in Higher Primary Government Schools.
In accordance to the sustainable goal number 3 which strives to ensure good health and wellbeing of all, RH provides but not limited to the following-
• Provide toilets exclusively for girls through new constructions and renovate existing non-functional toilets
• Maintenance of toilets, water tanks, hand wash units, plumbing etc
• Installation and maintenance of building toilets, water tanks, hand wash, plumbing & others as per requirement
• Provide MHM Kit which includes sanitary pads, bhindi (for girls) and HH Kit which includes tissue paper, soap, toothpaste and brush to all students. (both boys and girls)
Toilets play a key role in the overall functioning of a school. It is hard to imagine a school functioning efficiently without a set of toilets. According to UNICEF, “education for girls can be fostered by something as basic as a girls-only toilet”. Even in cases where schools have toilets, they will be unusable unless they are clean, private and functional
The objective of the program is to raise awareness on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for 2000 underprivileged young girls’ studying in Higher Primary Government Schools.
Through this project, we are aiming to build and upgrade the toilet facilities in the schools and ensure that there is ample water facility with needed drainage & disposal arrangements. The young girls should come to the school with more confidence and dignity. We strive to enhance the educational experience of these girls by improving their understanding on health & hygiene and create an enabling surrounding by developing infrastructures. Reaching Hand aims to provide a fun and safe learning environment to the children, studying in the Government Schools so that they can compete with the mainstream students thereby fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.
You can help be a part of this necessary social change movement; we are making history every day, gently but firmly breaking the glass ceiling and every order hindrance on the girl child’s wellbeing.
You could be a part of this great life –changing work by donating in furtherance of the Water, Sanitation and Health programs by contributing your quarter towards the construction, renovation, maintenance of toilets as well as providing Menstrual hygiene kits for young girls in several communities that we work with.
Help us lend a reaching hand and impact the lives of 25,000 young women within 5 years by donating to the building of toilets and the spreading awareness on the importance of hygienic practices during menstruation!
3 Lakh = Build toilets for 1 school with water facility