Period Room: The need of the hour
In the midst of voices being raised towards awareness and education, the installation of India’s first period friendly toilet is a proud moment for the country. The Muse Foundation, in association with Thane Municipal Corporation, set up ‘Paalichi Kholi’ or the ‘Period Room’ at Thane’s Lokmanya Nagar, putting another step forward towards a period positive planet.
As per statistics gathered by A Period of Sharing, an alarming 67% of menstruators didn’t have access to private bathrooms or toilets at home, with no proper access to menstrual hygiene. With almost negligible hygienic conditions to abide by, sanitary pads and napkins found their places by the window sills of community bathrooms, soiled and covered by paper bags. Apart from improper waste disposal, problems faced by menstruators in the local areas also included unsafe changing rooms, lack of water supply, and scarcity of garbage disposals.
The first of its kind public initiative has revamped the way slums work and has paved the way for similar endeavors in the future. The room is equipped with everything that makes it easier for a menstruator: a urinal, jet spray, toilet roll holder, soap, running water, and a dustbin. The outer walls of the room display colorful pictures that advocate good hygiene- a much-needed step up for the country. The low-cost innovation proves that it isn’t all about the big bucks when it comes to making a change in the way societies function.
There is an increasing need for more of such period rooms to empower and support all those menstruators who do not have access to menstrual hygiene, a fundamental human right. The ideal place to begin about awareness and education should be schools. But, the supplies and sanitation facilities needed by menstruators to handle their periods are often missing here. Their experiences of discomfort or pain without sufficient health care often go unnoticed under the tag of shame. Shame and misinformation will only discourage menstruators from getting all they deserve while menstruating and prevent schools and educational institutes from teaching safe menstruation practices.
The potential of plenty of menstruators to meet their health and hygiene needs is compromised by gender discrimination, cultural taboos, poverty, and the lack of basic services. Situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among the most vulnerable, can worsen these deprivations with far-reaching adverse effects. Gender inequality, global poverty, humanitarian disasters, and harmful rituals can all turn menstruation into a time of stigma and deprivation that can threaten the enjoyment of basic human rights. This extends to women and children, as well as to menstruating transgender males and non-binary individuals.
Decision-makers, policy-makers, educators, and even medical establishments have frequently ignored health problems unique to menstruators’ bodies, including not only menstruation but also pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum changes, and menopause. As a consequence, they can neither accept nor embrace these natural phases.
Here are some basics that must be ticked off every menstruator’s list:
· Access to clean pads, tampons, cups, and materials to absorb and extract blood the right way
· Protection and privacy of these items and a place to dispose of used menstrual supplies or to wash reusable supplies
· Safe and private soap and water supplies with regular hygiene checks
· Basic education about the process of a menstrual cycle and how to treat menstruation the right way
· Access to health information and treatment in case of menstrual disorders
Menstrual products for the menstruators who use them must be healthy, reliable, and appropriate. Such items can be:
· Disposable sanitary napkins
· Reusable napkins
· Disposable tampons
· Menstrual cups
· Clean and absorbent fabrics
While menstruation has been used throughout history to exclude menstruators from all sorts of positions and environments, there is actually nothing that people who menstruate cannot do. However, the management of menstruation does influence what people can do.
It’s time to transcend the status quo and add the missing key in the well-being of menstruators!
Written by Nibha Patil
Artwork by Khyati Patkar