We live in a country that cradles our societies in social taboos and unrealistic superstitions. When these interdict are given paramount importance, the picture of the obvious muddle associated with reflects an ignored picturesque.
Not to forget, our ‘rural India’ which is basked with numerous old wives’ tale, has been still pedalling its way through the slowest pace of development, ignoring the parlous repercussions that wait at their doors.
Out of the plethora of stumbling blocks that women of rural India come across, a major unnoticed one is the issue of menstrual management. Nivedita Pathak, a PhD Scholar from the Dept. Of Humanities and Social Sciences explored the issue and presented her paper “Menstrual Hygiene in Rural India: Issues and Challenges” at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development conducted from 9th-12th July, 2014 at Melbourne Convention and Education Centre, Australia. Her study explored the extent to which gender disparity in rural India has been dependent upon their attitude towards menstruation.
My prior interviews with rural Indian women suggests that the problem is not limited to the availability and cost of menstrual products only. Shame and secrecy associated with female body and the taboos attached with menstruation, sex, child birth, with its root firmly placed in patriarchy, is the main creator of gender imbalances.
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Although Government of India and other private companies initiated the distribution of low cost napkins in rural India, women still predominantly use rags as absorbents. This has led to acute gynaecological illness. An attitude of following some stringent and unhealthy practices of using rags is deep rooted in their mindset. There is also absence of proper garbage disposal mechanism that would save these women from spreading diseases and illness. That is what the paper says in detail.
“It’s high time that social workers take up an initiative to provide gender education to change people’s attitude towards menstruation and improve communication to empower women.” Says Nivedita.
Nivedita is currently working on Gender and Health under Prof. Jalandhar Pradhan. She did her MSW (Masters in Social Work) from Visva Bharati University, Shantiniketan and her M.A. in Women’s studies from University of York, United Kingdom. She has attended a number of conferences and seminars in India and abroad. Her work was highly applauded in the above mentioned conference.
Team MM wishes her luck for her future.