Let’s normalize menstruation

We have already stepped on the menstrual month of 2021 which is in the month of May. May 28 is also called MHD or MH Day i.e. Menstrual Hygiene day. This day ie. May 28 has a symbolic meaning -> May is the 5th month of the year and the menstruation’s average length is also 5 days every month. The average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, i.e. normally, it takes about 28 days for periods to reoccur, but it differs from woman to woman. Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD, MH Day in short) is an annual awareness day on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) at a global level. It was initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2014.

Menstruation or period is basically the release of blood from a girl’s uterus out through her vagina as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. It is a natural periodic cycle in females. Every month, a girl’s body prepares for pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy or pregnancy does not occur, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus. On average, menstruation starts at the age of 12 and ends at age of 52. So, basically, it’s almost 40 years of the period which means 480 periods in total. The average length of the period is between 4 to 7days. That means 1920–3360 days which is almost 5.2 to 7.8 years of bleeding of one’s life.

During one’s period, the girl has to undergo various hormonal changes which cause mood swings, cramps or pains low in the abdomen, bloating or swelling in the abdomen, constipation before period, diarrhea at the start of the period, acne, tiredness, and many more. Lots of women and girls use old cloth to stop their menstrual flow. Some people in urban areas use tampons and menstrual cups during their periods, but sanitary pads or sanitary napkins are the most widely used among these all (preferred by all the age groups in urban areas). Most of the girls and women could not afford sanitary pads because of which they could not go out for their schooling or elsewhere on their periods. Also, there are some families who strictly practice menstrual taboos with the only intention of pleasing god which usually becomes mentally torturing for the menstruating woman.

There are some malpractices related to menstruation that are still prevailing in most parts of Nepal like:

a) Chau-Padi pratha (छाउपडी): One with a period usually has to stay in a neighbor’s house during first menstruation and to a floor corner in their own house. Mostly in rural areas, girls have to live in the cowshed during menstruation away from family.

b) No entry to the kitchen and prayer room

c) Limited or no access to family events and celebrations

d) No access to pills during excessive pain

e) Lack of access to sanitary pads: Commercial sanitary pads are expensive and parents–particularly in low-income families-are reluctant to spend money on pads

f) Issues of leakage and resulting embarrassment

Menstrual hygiene and sanitary product management are one of the major problems in Nepal. In fact, according to UNICEF, 83% of the menstruating girls use cloth while only 15% use pads. More than 10 crores worth of sanitary pad is imported from foreign countries in Nepal every year. Only 7% of total NGOs, INGOs on Menstrual Health and hygiene Management in Nepal are providing sanitary pads. If a girl misses 4 days of school every 4 weeks due to her period, she will miss 10–20 % of her school days. This shows the need for sanitary pads is very much. One of the positive changes that have been reflected in our society is the use of reusable sanitary napkins. These napkins have been introduced in some of the rural villages by different social organizations like SOCHAI, PadBank, WeForChange, etc.

“A man lives 12 months a year but a woman only 10 months”. This dialogue from the movie Pad Man should make you think twice, thrice, and even more. Pad Man is not just the story about ‘Sanitary Pad’ or ‘Menstrual Hygiene’, it is as much about women’s fight for ‘dignity and against ‘social stigma’. And the irony is a man started the fight for it. So, being a woman, we should come forward and educate ourselves, our families, our societies, and all the women of this world and fight for our basic needs. Actually, we should take pride that we menstruate because “it is the only blood which bleeds without violence”.

Happy Menstruating.

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