Sanitation in developing countries is, by and large, the most pressing issue on the modern political agenda. Diarrheal diseases including rotavirus affect nearly every child by the age of 5; and around 1 in 293 dies from such a disease.(1) Rotavirus is spread through faecal contamination of food and water supplies, largely because of inadequate toilet facilities. Whilst this is undoubtedly an issue affecting all children, this piece will focus on another area of sanitation that requires our utmost attention. As we, in this quarter, are focusing on female empowerment and education, we will draw attention to the issue of female sanitation across India. We will begin by outlining the current issue, and go on to sharing various solutions that could be implemented.Poor menstrual hygiene is damaging to a woman’s health, exposing her to infections, potential infertility, and bares the risk of early death. For many women living in developing countries, the natural part of her monthly cycle can be the most dreaded time. Lack of access to sanitary products results in fewer girls going to school, fewer social interactions, and fewer job opportunities and takes a toll on their mental and physical health. Without entering into the issue of cultural superstitions, myths and poor knowledge about the use of sanitary products can lead to poor menstrual hygiene. Therefore, any efforts in the area of improving access to menstrual hygiene products needs to be accompanied by education of individuals and communities.
A key focus for CAREducation this year is to promote menstrual hygiene in its schools and centres. A potential vision for improving female sanitation is that of the Menstrual Hygiene Day (which this year falls on 28th May); ‘To create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence, and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural or normal as her period.’ With 62% of women in the age group 15-24 still relying on cloth during periods, this has to be our primary focus.(2)
CAREducation has supported the introduction of a sanitary pad-making machine in its centre in Bhuj, with facilities for waste incineration. This has led to the employment of three girls, and has been successful; however, there has been a big political drive to eradicate the 12 per cent tax on sanitary products, which makes a cost-effective argument for buying over producing for other centres.(3) Considering the various vendors in the female sanitation market, we are exploring the most cost-effective, high quality and sustainable solutions for girls in our other schools. With pads on the market available at £0.03 per pad, a year’s supply for one girl is as cheap as £3.60. Certain pads, available at £0.05 per pad, have biodegradable properties such that they degrade after 8 days of burying it in soil. A year’s supply for one girl is a mere £6.
Every girl deserves the chance to reach their full potential; menstrual hygiene cannot be a restriction. Let’s make this quarter the beginning of the end of poor female sanitation in our schools in India.
Guest Blog by Dr. Shriti Pattani & Niam Radia
1 Parashar et al. (May 2003), “Global illness and deaths caused by rotavirus disease in children”, Emerging
Infectious Diseases, 9(5), 565-72
2 Azad, S. (Jan 2018), “62% young women in country using cloth for menstrual protection, says NFHS report”,
The Times of India, [online] available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/62-young-women-
3 Oppenheim, M. (July 2018), “India scraps 12% tax on sanitary pads after protests”, The Independent, [online] available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-sanitary-pads-12-tax-protests-period-