Girls should not be embarrassed about menstruation: Gul Panag

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New Delhi: Gul Panag, the model-turned-actor-turned-politician said that menstruation is a natural process and is not something that a woman or girl should be embarrassed about.

She was speaking during the launch of a free educational YouTube channel that will assist women in getting a better understanding about menstruation. The free channel on menstrual hygiene was launched by Stayfree, a women’s health and hygiene brand.

Advocating for the need of educating young girls and women about menstrual hygiene, one of India’s least-spoken about social topics, Gul said that all the shushing is affecting women and girls’ basic right to get educated on a topic that is a monthly occurrence in their daily lives.

Stressing on the need for breaking the silence around menstrual hygiene in India, she asserted that it was a completely natural process. “Menstruation is a natural process and is not something that a woman or girl should be embarrassed about. During my growing up years and even today, I see women and girls shying away from mentioning the ‘M’ word,” she said.

She lamented that women have to try innovative ways for talking about this topic. “Women try and come up with innovative ways to state the word in public, but you don’t see a man cringing publicly or feeling sorry about what he wants to say. And all this shushing and discouragement is affecting women and girls’ basic right to get educated on a topic that is a monthly occurrence till they reach menopause,” she said.

Dr Anita Soni, Obstetrics & Gynecology consultant at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, stated that most women and girls do not understand or give as much importance to their menstrual issues.

Talking about the stigma related to the issue, she said, “Today, almost every household will have at least one woman or girl who suffers from irregularities in her menstrual cycle but the reported cases will be few due to the stigma associated with talking openly about the red-letter day. A lot of women do not follow simple hygienic practices like use of sanitary napkins or the right usage of same”

Sinu Joseph, Counselor & Menstrual Hygiene educator, spoke about the need to start talking about menstruation. “When we don’t talk about it, we do not think enough about our body and miss the signs when we need attention. While education about menstrual hygiene is important, it is even more important to stop looking at menstruation as a disease needing a cure,” she said.

Sinu said that menstruation is the most ancient and reliable tool for women to assess their health and well-being, naturally. “Beginning to respect your menstrual cycle is the first step towards being healthy. Menstrual Hygiene should be addressed at homes, schools, community centers, health centers, women hostels and at the work places,” she elaborated.

Lina Ashar, Founder & Chairperson of Kangaroo Kids Education, stated that menstruation is a natural biological process and needs to be seen as such. There is nothing ‘dirty’ or ‘unclean’ about it; let’s stop treating it as a life-threatening contagious disease,” she said.

“Menstruation was not something that a girl needs to feel ashamed of. It is essential for schools to understand and make requisite arrangements so that a girl student need not skip school due to menstruation or drop out completely as soon as she reaches puberty,” she added.

Good menstrual hygiene is a critical indicator of the holistic progress of women, socially and economically, because there is a very strong connection between hygienic menstrual practices and overall health. In India, despite the economic progress that has been made in the last several years, over 80% of women still do not have access to adequate sanitary protection during menstruation.

In India, feminine hygiene and menstruation, being a sensitive topic, is not discussed openly, and women often continue to harbour myths and misconceptions about it, since no one amongst their family and friends is able to educate them. According to the report, awareness on basic health and feminine hygiene in India is very low, with 75% rural women lacking adequate knowledge on menstrual hygiene and care.

“We strongly believe that education dispels fear and prepares young girls to recognize menstruation as being a natural process and face it with confidence” stated Ganesh Bangalore, General Manager – Marketing, Consumer Business, at Johnson & Johnson India.

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