Guwahati: On the eve of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA) in collaboration with Water, Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) published findings of a survey which, among many issues, shows that more than 50% women still rely on their mothers as the primary source of information about menstrual hygiene.
Meanwhile, men seem to rely on social media sources about information on periods, said the study, highlighting how ill-informed and tabooed the topic of menstrual health and hygiene remains in our country.
More than 50% of women rely on their mothers as the primary source of information about menstrual hygiene
The survey, launched online in September 2019, was conducted over a period of 12 weeks gathering over 11,161 responses (in Hindi and English) from young Indians on issues of product usage, productivity at the workplace; cultural practices and beliefs and explored the intersections around menstrual hygiene and health, gender, emotional and mental well-being, etc.
A 35-question questionnaire was set up online to cover a large demography, and responses were received primarily from female, constituting 74.3% respondents, followed by 22% respondents identifying as male. The remaining identified themselves as non-binary, trans and those who didn’t prefer to specify.
More than 47% of respondents felt that menstruation is a ‘women’s only issue’
The findings of the survey highlighted key areas that need to be addressed:
- Sustainable menstrual hygiene products: Almost 71% respondents agreed to using non-biodegradable sanitary napkins and almost 63% recognised that it is harmful for the environment. But affordability and the issue of trust, remained a barrier in menstruators making a clear switch to biodegradable alternatives.
- Young people are more open to a conversation around menstrual hygiene. More than 28% respondents in the age group of 18-22 said they were comfortable speaking about menstruation while only 27% agreed to that in the age group of 23-25 years.
- Negative emotions associated with first periods: Fear and anxiety were the dominant-negative emotions for the women experiencing their first period with more than 23% respondents opting for that.
- Need for a relook at menstrual leave policy: Almost 41% of the respondents were in favour of introducing a Bill in Parliament around the menstrual leave.
- Cultural taboos exist: Almost 49.2% respondents admitted that they have heard activities like “praying” should be avoided during periods. And 51.1% of respondents admitted they have been isolated or excluded from an event because of menstruation.
- Lack of diversity around menstrual hygiene in India: More than 47% of respondents felt that menstruation is a “women’s only issue”. The majority were not aware that periods is also a non-binary and Trans men issue. So much so, that only 10% respondents felt that the needs of the non-binary and trans population are being met around menstrual hygiene.
YKA founder Anshul Tewari said, “It is not surprising that there is a complete lack of an inclusive dialogue around menstrual hygiene and informed product choices.”
Hoping to show what the young Indians feel through the survey, he added, “We hope that this data can become a template for meaningful policy dialogue and action that can help us create a more structural, systemic change for menstruating people across the country.”
WSSCC executive director, Sue Coates said, “This survey gives a very detailed perspective on what young people in India feel about the issue of menstruation and periods besides taboos and stigmas.” Coats is hopeful that the findings of this survey will help to create a more active dialogue and conversation around the need for informed and inclusive policy-making around menstrual health and hygiene.