Every year, 28th May is celebrated as Menstrual Hygiene Day across the world. It is a global platform that unites various non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to advocate towards a world where menstruators are no longer limited because of their periods. The major objective behind this day is to create awareness among every individual regarding the challenges and hardships associated with menstruation.
In India, menstruation continues to be a subject of gender disparity. In rural and low-income urban communities, misconstrued ideas about menstruations are largely prevalent and, women and girls struggle to access basic healthcare facilities, including sanitary pads. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made an already debilitating situation worse. According to a survey conducted by Menstrual Health Alliance India (MHAI), 84% of women stated that there is either no or severely restricted access to menstrual products in communities that they work in, especially for sanitary pads.
The 6th annual Menstrual Hygiene Survey (2021) by Everteen stated that 41% of women experienced an unusually irregular gap in their periods. The survey suggests that these irregularities were caused by anxiety stress due to the Covid-19. The number is alarming because only 13.7% of the women who participated in the survey were infected with Covid-19.
In such circumstances, the combined efforts of individuals and NGOs play a significant role in making health care more accessible and helping women and young girls unlearn misconstrued perceptions about their bodies. In Mumbai, a grass-root based social enterprise, Myna Mahila Foundation is transforming the lives of women towards this end.
Founded in 2015 by Suhani Jalota, Myna Mahila’s vision is to create local employment for women in informal-lower income communities and improve their menstrual health. Their 2016 research indicated that 47% of women felt uncomfortable talking about sanitary pads. The use of cloth rags was widespread despite its adverse hygiene consequences. At its core, accessibility, affordability and awareness was needed. To fill this gap, Myna Mahila conceptualised their three-pronged approach — Health, Employ and Research (HER) described below: