Menstrual Education: The Schooling We Want And Need

| By Pooja Gulati |

These are just few of the several ghastly stories surrounding period shame; to think of how deep the shame related to period runs and how many of these stories you hear every day is saddening.

This is why there is a dire need for menstrual education in our society. Considering the stigma around periods, it is a challenge to distinguish fact from superstition. The internalized shame carried by the word ‘period’ demands enormous efforts devoted towards unlearning this negative association — and eventually formulating a more positive, functional one.  

In India, menstrual education is introduced as a topic in science which includes no more than a scant 250-word explanation of the very vast topic of menstruation. The consequences of such ignorance seem blaringly obvious and dangerous. This lack of adequate education coupled with the unfortunate socio-economic factors breeds disaster. 

What do women end up doing instead of using safe menstrual hygiene products? They may stick to other alternatives like cloth, soil or ash, to name a couple. Whilst using cloth is not a problem on its own, it becomes one when the material is not appropriately sanitized, which is the case more often than not due to their socio-economic conditions. The cloth pads are often washed without soap, with unclean water, and very discreetly indoors rather than in open air outside due to the taboo-nature of the menstrual topic. 

What are the positive impacts of menstrual education at the school-level?

They covered several critical components that answered some questions like these: How long does a period last? How can unsanitary practices lead to infection? Is period blood impure? Why do we menstruate? Where does period blood come from? When does one stop getting their period? How often must one change their menstrual product? Can one visit a religious institution when they are on their period?

After this programme was executed, the knowledge about menstruation among children went from 51% to 82.4%, similar to other studies conducted in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There was a considerable increase in the percentage of women practicing sanitary hygienic practises and a significant decrease in those experiencing menstrual disorders. Several other positive findings were reported by this study, thereby highlighting the extent of the positive impact an educational intervention at the school-level can bring about. 

Bringing about change. 

The overall initiative of menstrual education in schools requires more educational backing from health practitioners, a realistic outline for implementing menstrual health management in educational settings, and additional financial support to implement the necessary interventions. Some hindrances to creating secure and sanitary conditions in the context of the school environment are anxiety, embarrassment, current societal taboos, ill-informed and uncooperative teachers, insufficient water, hygiene, and privacy. 

To create a safe and hygienic environment for menstruators, it is essential to get to the roots of the shame we carry around this very natural biological function. It is important to unpack that shame and then embrace the body and menstrual process for all the beauty it holds. For this to happen, it must be normalized and talked about to young menstruators so we are able to catch it when it’s first brewing — and minimize its impact on the emotional, psychological, and physical health of menstruators. 

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