Stigma around menstruation is the biggest barrier in attaining menstrual hygiene and empowerment of adolescent girls and women in India. So much so that it has been holding them from attending school.
According to a report by Hindustan Times, at least 66% of girls enrolled in government schools across Delhi, either skip classes or take a half day’s leave when they are on their period.
These are the results of a survey conducted by Sachhi Saheli, an NGO that works among women to fight social taboos. The survey covered over 10,000 girls from government schools in Delhi during the academic session, 2018-19.
It also found that 26% of girls skip classes because of the fear of staining their clothes. The stigma surrounding menstruation is clear from the fact that 68% of the surveyed girls did not know about menstruation until they got their period.
Even after having proper toilets and providing free sanitary napkins, girls in the government schools lack proper counselling. And this stops them from attending school when they are on their period.
According to the survey, 77% of the surveyed girls believe that menstrual blood was 'dirty' because they were told this by their mothers. They can't talk openly about menstruation. Talking to Hindustan Times, one girl said:
When I got my period for the first time, I was told that it’s part of a girl’s life but we are not supposed to speak about it in front of others, especially boys and men. I feel shy to even tell my teacher when I’m on my period. I prefer to stay home for a day or two.
Proper education and counselling in early years is the only way to create awareness among young girls, so that their deep rooted myths and perception towards menstruation changes.