World Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated on May 28 all over the world every year to create awareness about menstruation, provide safe and hygienic practices to girls, and burst the bubble of taboo. According to UNFPA, May 28 signifies the menstrual cycle of females. As a fertility cycle lasts for 28 days, the date is selected to be 28. In the same way, an average period lasts for five days, which gives us the fifth month of the day, May. Therefore, to give it a meaning in itself, May 28 is celebrated to mark the change that occurs in a female body. While the topic itself is taboo, we can’t deny the importance of educating adolescent girls who go through multiple changes when they start menstruating.
Dr Mamta Mishra, Director, OBS & Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, talks about the importance of educating young girls about puberty and sexuality. She says,” Puberty and sexuality are sensitive topics and it is, therefore, important for educational programs that address these issues to have clearly articulated values. Parents, teachers, and government are equal partners in imparting this education. We should acknowledge that students are diverse with diverse needs.”
Stating that not only parents, but the educational institutions and the government also plays an essential role in creating awareness around menstrual hygiene and topics related to it.
She says, “The curriculum needs to be developed for specific classes starting from class v onwards with lesson time frames, key facts for teachers, and methods to assess students learning. It should include an introduction to puberty, physical, and mental changes at puberty, reproduction, ovulation, menstruation, body awareness for both boys and girls, sexual awareness and harassment. Some classes should be common whereas some can be taken separately. Parents should also discuss only things which are age-appropriate. Giving too much information at the wrong age could be damaging. Body parts should be taught by correct names preferably by diagrams. They should actively take part in the education imparted by the school. Government should ensure uniformity in the curriculum and also take into consideration social and cultural beliefs. Online resources should be government-approved. A helpline number should be made available. Imparting correct knowledge about puberty is just the beginning of a healthier society.”
Dr Vikas Kaushal, Head of Health, Save the Children NGO says, “One of the most challenging and important elements of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) education for adolescent girls is puberty, particularly when the body of a girl child goes through multiple changes. Pre puberty is a time that should be approached with a broader agenda of comprehensive SRH education which often does not happen. The World Health Organization has also identified adolescent girls’ SRH educational needs as a matter of great priority and there is a need among adolescent girls for information about their health and health-related behaviours. Currently, there is a deficiency of contextualized and adolescent-friendly information that is satisfactory and precise.”
He shares that mothers play an essential part in the education of adolescent girls who are getting close to puberty. He adds, “Our mothers are the most important source of information on puberty and related concerns based on their experience and limited scientific knowledge on adolescent girls, hence there is an acute need for aptly tailored educational approaches for both mothers as well as adolescent girls themselves. Mothers’ education and other dedicated educational services should be used such as School Health Ambassadors, School Health Messengers, etc. and education spokespersons should use public media with a lot of ethical and cultural sensitivities. Knowledge should not only be confined to the mechanisms of puberty, menstruation, and natural behaviours, but also should help adolescents to understand their own selves better. There is a need to make sincere investments with an emphasis on family-based educational approaches.”
This year, the theme for World Menstrual Hygiene Day is ‘making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’. The theme is not just about celebrating the day, but rather a goal that has to be achieved by 2030. The goal is to build a world where no girl is without the safety supplies and easy access to menstrual products. It is also about making menstruation a normal subject that can be discussed publicly in a normal voice, not a low-pitched one.
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