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India has a huge population of women. It has more than 12 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years. Yet, 75% of them share the same problem of period poverty. The situation is grim especially in rural areas where people suffer from period poverty. Period poverty is not just about not having access to sanitary pads. It has become a part of the lives of many people, and their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers before them. Menstruation is a hygienic necessity. Everyone menstruates, and, everyone, men and women need and should have access to clean sanitary products. Even in the 21st century in a country like India women are still deprived of their basic right to sanitation.
Reforms have been afoot to improve the situation but it has never been popular enough to stay in the consciousness of the public. The government should make it mandatory in all schools, colleges, and workplaces to bring awareness about menstruation and hygiene. It must widely spread the notion that there is nothing shameful or impure about periods. This will make people stop being ashamed and will make women take pride in their periods. The problem is a lack of affordable hygiene products for people with periods. Women in India are twice as likely to miss school because of menstruation as boys, and about a third of all women in the country have no access to sanitary napkins.
Period poverty is a real issue and is not just limited to India alone. In many underdeveloped countries having your period means that you have nothing to assist you. Yes, the patriarchy is alive and kicking in these parts of the world. Many rural areas lack education, sanitary supplies, and even toilets. This affects both men and women but poor married women are often blamed for not being responsible with money or ‘something else wrong with them. But what’s even more important, by far, is that the lack of access to sanitary napkins means that girls miss school during their periods. A 2014 report titled ‘Spot on! Period poverty in India’, authored by the advocacy group Dasra for the NGO DKT India says that among the respondents in its survey 31 percent said they didn’t send their daughters to school because they had no access to pads.
The consequences of this culture are wide-ranging. First, girls miss school while they are menstruating. This takes a toll on their education and means that they get lower qualifications than their male peers – which lags them in the job market. Second, if they do manage to finish school, many women are forced out of work when they begin menstruating – starting a cycle of unemployment and poverty. Despite efforts by governments and NGOs to normalize menstruation and make menstrual hygiene products more affordable, the fact is that more than half of Indian girls remain unprepared for menstruation. This is large because of ignorance about what happens during puberty.