Menstrual Health and Hygiene in Amrita SeRVe Villages
The annual three-day festival of Raja Parba celebrates Mother Earth and Womanhood by honoring the feminine reproductive cycle and welcoming in the coming rainy season. In Odisha, it is believed that Bhumi Devi herself has a monthly menstruation cycle. For this reason, women take a break from tillage and household chores during this festival. These three days are filled with indoor and outdoor games, henna and make-up sessions, and the distribution of sweets In Guptapada, an Amrita SeRVe village, Raja Parba celebrations are held annually.
Amrita SeRVe believes that empowered women empower the entire society. Swasth Kanya – Sakshar Kanya, The Healthy Girl – Educated Girl campaign under the central government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Save the girl, Educate a girl movement has emerged out of this mind-set Amrita CREATE tuition centers provide after school help with studies for girls and boys, close to their homes.
Menstruation is a Celebration of Womanhood in many Indian rural cultures and traditions. Menarche, a girl’s first period, is widely recognized in many parts of the country. In some villages, however, unhygienic methods such as leaves and dirty rags are still the primary method of absorbing menstruation blood, which can result in reproductive tract infections.
Amrita SeRVe Health workers and village coordinators are organizing meetings to discuss menstrual health and hygiene in villages across India. Both women and men, and even young boys are attending, a hopeful sign for the coming generation.
Village health workers and Local ASHA workers, together with Anganwadi preschool teachers, who are tasked with providing services for both young children and mothers, are creating more comfortable and hygienic facilities for menstruating women.
Amrita SeRVe staff provides awareness sessions on the menstrual cycle:
- Explaining the menstrual and reproductive cycle.
- Seeking advice from local Amrita SeRVe or government health workers
- Continuing outdoor activities by changing the menstrual cloth every few hours and carrying separate bags for soiled and clean cloth.
- Washing the used cloth with soap and water and drying it in the sunlight to kill bacteria to prevent infection.
- Maintaining personal hygiene
- Eating a balanced diet containing iron rich foods and getting sufficient rest.
- Encouraging girls not to miss school during their periods.
- Seeking medical help for painful cramps or other complications.
Amrita SeRVe has introduced the Saukhyam reusable cloth pad as a practical, hygienic, easy-to-stitch design that Self-Help Groups are now producing for their daughters, themselves, and the local market. In Kodur village, Telangana, the Self-Help Group has distributed 558 Saukhyam cloth pads to nearby government schools for girls.
To ensure privacy while changing pads and in support of the Swachh Bharat Mission, AMMACHI Labs has taught women to build toilets on their premises. Along with this, the Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University has built water distribution systems that maintain an adequate water supply for personal hygiene.
Tribal festivals such as Raja Parba reveal that the ancients lived in tune with nature, respecting all natural processes. Over the passage of thousands of years, however, menstruation became synonymous with impurity. This has resulted in repressed health issues and isolating restrictions for menstruating women, who instead need kindness and attention. Through awareness sessions, Amrita SeRVe is striving to remove the taboos surrounding this natural life cycle.