The initiative especially focuses on reaching young and school-going girls to eradicate the shame, heavy stigma, and misconception that menstruation carries.
UNESCO India and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham have come together to launch a campaign to create awareness among women, especially young and school-going girls, about menstrual health and hygiene management. The event, held at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, marked the launch of a national survey and gap analysis report and five teaching-learning modules by UNESCO India. The initiatives address the challenges related to menstrual health and hygiene management in relation to gender, disability, teachers and educators, young adults, and nutrition.
“As our understanding of disease increases, we now recognize that one of the determinants of health in an individual depends upon the health of their mother from the time their mother begins menstruation. This highlights the urgent need for us to raise awareness of menstrual hygiene and health. Menstruation is the most natural process in a woman’s life and this needs to be addressed with pride instead of shame,” said Dr Priya Nair, Coordinator of C20 Working Group on Integrated Holistic Health.
The teaching-learning modules, titled Spotlight Red, provide learners, educators, menstruators, and community leaders with resources and strategies for comprehensive understanding and skill development in managing menstruation and driving awareness about its societal impact. They aim to empower adolescents of diverse groups, including girls with disabilities, with access to period and puberty education and create a supportive environment with interventions at the school, state, and national level to help them continue their education.
A National Survey and Gap Analysis report on Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management under the initiative #KeepGirlsinSchool was also launched by UNESCO India. Thirty-five girls from an orphanage in Faridabad were given menstrual health kits at the event. Amrita’s UNESCO Chair for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment, and the Civil 20 India Working Groups on Gender Equality and Integrated Holistic Health are advocacy partners.
“Menstruation is a natural biological process, but the shame, heavy stigma and misconception attached to it are prevalent even today. The fact that the Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the topic in his speech for Independence Day in 2020 was unexpected and unprecedented,” said Dr Huma Masood, Gender Specialist, UNESCO New Delhi Multisectoral Regional Office.
“The Government of India through its various schemes and programmes has ensured inclusion and equal access to menstrual products and education. The ‘Keep Girls in School’ initiative of UNESCO will add to the momentum generated through these schemes and catalyze equal access to education about menstrual health and hygiene management for all.”
Dr Bhavani Rao is the C20 Coordinator of the Working Group on Gender Equality and also the UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at Amrita. She explained throughout the C20 process, the conversation on menstrual health repeatedly emerges as part of policy deliberations.
“It is essential to shift the conversation towards environmentally friendly products and ensure the active involvement of women in their manufacturing and marketing. We therefore strongly recommend the voices of the civil society not only in promoting menstrual health and hygiene for women, especially young and school-going girls, but also in the move to make more environment-friendly products and including women in the lifecycle of making these,” she said.
“Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has always been strongly committed to the causes of gender equality and healthcare. Amma has spearheaded large-scale projects in these areas, including empowering 2,500 women through self-help groups across the country.”
Smt Seema Trikha, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Badhkhal Constituency, Faridabad, also addressed the audience.
“Every woman, regardless of her social and economic background, deserves access to sanitary pads and proper menstrual hygiene. In schools, it is essential for teaching and non-teaching staff to promote awareness about menstrual hygiene. NGOs, hospitals, Anganwadi workers, and the Haryana Government should all collaborate to spearhead this initiative. Let us ensure that no woman is left behind, and together, we create a society where menstrual hygiene is prioritized and accessible to all,” she said.
“We, as Indians, recognize the profound significance of motherhood, which forms the very essence of our lives. By empowering women, we ensure that no daughter in the future will face any weakness or disempowerment. While people may label Indian society as male-dominated, my personal experience reveals a different reality—a society where women hold immense influence.
“In every man’s journey, the pivotal roles of his mother and daughter cannot be underestimated. Empowering a single girl child has a transformative impact, empowering not just two families but also future generations. Let us also remember that menstruation, often viewed as solely a female issue, deserves the inclusion of men in this conversation.”
At the event, UNESCO also presented a series of short films which captured various facets of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management, highlighting the diverse experiences and perspectives surrounding this crucial topic from seven states across India. This was complemented by a “Pride of Period Anthem” that aimed to eliminate barriers and stigma related to periods and cultivate a brighter future for all menstruators.
The entire list of dignitaries present at the launch included Joyce Poan, Program Specialist & Chief of Education and Dr Huma Masood, Gender Specialist, with UNESCO New Delhi Multisectoral Regional Office; Smt Seema Trikha, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Badhkhal Constituency, Faridabad; Dr Punita Hasija, President, Indian Medical Association, Faridabad; Dr Sanjeev Singh, Medical Director, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad; Dr Pratima Mittal, Head, and Dr Shweta Mendiratta, Senior Consultant, with Dept. of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad; Dr Priya Nair, Coordinator of C20 Working Group on Integrated Holistic Health; Dr Bhavani Rao, C20 Coordinator of the Working Group on Gender Equality and UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment; and Kruti Desai, Brand Director – Communications, P&G.