The annual Menstrual Hygiene Day event is organized by health workers in all Amrita SeRVe villages. The event consists of a menstrual health awareness session, discussions and sharing among the women. Local self-help groups (SHG) invited adolescent girls to participate.
Before the event, the health worker had conducted a survey with questions about menstrual health awareness. Results of the survey show that in many places women use cloth or disposable napkins, which cost 30-60 rupees per period. When cloth is used, washing and drying in direct sunlight is normal practice. Some women told that they hide the menstrual cloth while drying, whilst others dry them along with normal clothes without shame.
Restrictions and social norms vary from village to village. During periods visits to temples are constrained. In some places, household chores such as cooking are not permitted. At the same time, it is recommended to rest during menses in other places. Then again, some communities separate the women in a secluded space for the duration of their menses.
The health worker’s awareness material contains pictures, which are easy to understand and using these tools, the health worker would explain all of important aspects: what is period, what happens during menses, what can be done and how to take care of oneself and each other. Especially when young girls are getting to know of their periods, they are encouraged to ask advice from reliable women. For example, their mother, aunt or elderly friends are always nearby. Now in the villages the health worker is there to give guidance as well. Also, ASHA-worker and Anganwadi teacher are present in all the villages.
Meetings and functions are happening for the whole day according to convenient timings for SHG’s and schoolgirls. In Himachal state, health worker Parmjeet conducted awareness session at the Indpur government high school. Classes of 8 th to 10 th standard with 52 young women were present. Parmjeet explained according to the awareness material she carried with her. The students asked her questions and she cleared their doubts. Parmjeet encouraged the girls to attend school during menses. Girl students enjoyed the session and were happy to share their thoughts.
Health worker Sreekala from Wayanad in Kerala state, informed that seven SHG women and five young girls attended the event arranged by her. Specific practices in that region were discussed and useful tips shared. For example, in rainy season it is a challenge to dry the cloth in a way that is hygienic. Washing and drying guidelines were consulted together.
Menstrual health awareness sessions have been part of the continuous work on Amrita SeRVe’s agenda. Also, many cloth pads have been distributed to village women and girls, generating income for the SHGs who make them.