Friday, July 19, 2024

Meghalaya faces persistent trials in menstrual hygiene


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, July 1: I Khyriem from Upper Shillong is a familiar face in Iewduh, but during her menstruation days, especially in the monsoon season, she chooses to stay home. “I have to incur the losses, and that is nothing new for us; we are sort of used to it by now,” she shared.
Initially a little shy about discussing the menstrual method she uses, Khyriem later revealed that she uses the old cloth method, as she thinks of sanitary napkins as an additional, unnecessary expense.
In India, about 77% of women use hygienic menstrual methods, but there are significant socio-cultural and geographical disparities. Menstrual hygiene practices are less common in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. Factors such as age, education level, social status, religion, place of residence, and geographical region influence the use of hygienic menstrual techniques. Exposure to mass media, personal autonomy, and household wealth also play crucial roles in adopting clean menstrual practices.
State-wise, Tamil Nadu leads with 98% of women using hygienic methods, followed by Goa (97%) and Kerala (93%). Conversely, Bihar (59%), Madhya Pradesh (63%), Meghalaya (65%), Gujarat (66%), and Assam (67%) have the lowest percentages.
In Meghalaya, 4% of households (5% in rural areas and 1% in urban areas) do not use any sanitation facilities, relying instead on open spaces.
The challenges faced by Khyriem are echoed by Banshalang Marbaniang, whose elder daughter had to drop out of school due to the lack of washrooms for females. “She had to skip school when menstruating, and sometimes, when she had to go for exams, she had to come home halfway, crying. I decided to save her the embarrassment and made her drop out of school,” Marbaniang recounted.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) reveals that only 65.3% of women aged 15-49 in Meghalaya use hygienic menstrual protection methods, ranking the state third from the bottom nationwide. This is a slight increase from the 64.2% reported in NFHS-4 five years prior, indicating persistent challenges in improving menstrual hygiene.
Poor menstrual hygiene practices have significant educational impacts. Inadequate resources and knowledge can lead to irregular school attendance among female students, limiting their career prospects and perpetuating economic dependence. Cultural taboos and infrastructural limitations further complicate efforts to address these issues.
Smile Kharlukhi’s story is similar. The lack of public utility facilities and access to hygienic menstrual methods has been a persistent issue, particularly for hawkers operating outside the markets. They often have to shut shop during menstruation or the rainy season, leading to financial losses.
A survey conducted by Gynoveda in Northeast India, which included over 500 respondents, revealed that 98% of women face menstrual or vaginal health issues. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects 36% of women, causing irregular periods and fertility problems.
The lack of public utilities in markets such as Iewduh and Laitumkhrah exacerbates these issues. Women hawkers often avoid the market during the rainy season or menstruation, and some have had to deal with their children dropping out of school for similar reasons.


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