Depending on where you live, having your period can cause a host of problems for you in India.
In some villages, girls and women spend their time in small huts, away from their homes — and schools — while they are menstruating. Others are forced to stay home because their schools don’t have adequate toilet facilities. And many don’t have access to hygiene products.
As a result, 20% of girls drop out of school when they hit adolescence, missing out on the best years of their education.
The huts, called gaokors, are used to isolate women in India who are considered “sick, impure and even untouchable,” when they have their periods.
A majority of the huts lack electricity, beds, or other basic amenities.
Women who are menstruating are often uninvited to gatherings, and are not allowed in or near the kitchen while they have their period. In some parts of the country, women and girls are told that they can “pollute” specific foods like pickled vegetables if they so much as touch them while they are menstruating.
Perhaps the largest problem lies with the fact that the result of the stigma of menstruation is that young girls stop attending school.
Due to the time girls must spend in these huts, many are unable to take exams and thus hardly study beyond high school.
In September 2015, the National Human Rights Commission took steps to eradicate this practice of sending girls to gaokors. Commissioners brought together sociologists, psychiatrists, gynaecologists, and NGOs to educate families in regions where gaokors are common about the reproductive system, health and hygiene.
But the gaokors are not the only problem that needs addressing.
Only 12% of India’s 355 million women use sanitary napkins, while 88% rely on alternatives like unsanitized cloth, ashes, and husk sand in place of them, which are unhygienic. This leads to infections that can cause girls to miss even more school.
Educating and providing women with the proper sanitary necessities could ultimately encourage more girls to finish school.
This is why Global Citizen is campaigning to make sure girls and women in India don’t miss out on school when they have their period, and have the proper sanitation items to have a healthy, safe period every month.
As part of an Action Journey for the Global Citizen India Festival, which takes place Nov. 19 in Mumbai, Global Citizens called on officials to make sanitary products more affordable and accessible to women in India, and for schools to be equipped with toilets and facilities necessary for girls to stay healthy during their period while at school.
“We have a school where we are teaching 350 girls and we try to educate them that menstruation is a natural process,” Jagan Bhau, from Lok Biradari Prakalp, an organisation that runs social projects in Maharashtra, India, told The Guardian. “We believe that everything is linked to education.”
Using this hashtag, women have created a space where they can share their frustrations about the misunderstandings about menstruation as well as educate those who have been swallowed up by the taboo.
The key to solving this problem is continuing to educate those who will listen, and breaking the taboo of menstruation in India. Stay tuned to find out if Global Citizens’ efforts on these issues will be leading to positive change for girls and women across India.