Money and research have been invested in understanding the underlying challenges faced by menstruators across the world. The gravity of these issues depends on several factors, such as where the menstruator lives, do they have access to education, do they have financial resources, is their culture oppressive? What about technology – do they have mobile phones with internet connection? Based on these questions alone, you can get a better understanding of where one falls on the global menstrual health spectrum.
Lack of education and awareness – Those living in cities and towns are more likely to have access to schooling. A good education allows them to have a well-rounded worldview. Education is a stepping stone to upward mobility in jobs, housing, lifestyles, and acceptance of better social norms. People living in rural areas may have access to some education but problems like having to travel long distances to get to class, or having to stay home and help with the farms, are some problems they may face. Some parents may want to get their kids, especially girls, married at an early age to alleviate the financial burdens they face at home. This hampers her access to education and in turn, her ability to get a self-sustaining job, giving her plenty of personal challenges to deal with to begin with. Keeping this in mind, where is there room for learning how to manage her menstrual health effectively?
Menstrual taboo & stigma – There is still a long way to go before we can dismantle menstrual taboos and stigmas for good. The cause will only be a success when every living being has access to education and awareness as well as the tools to practice and receive good menstrual health. It is easy to dispel rumours, myths and lies on social media platforms, but likewise, there is a lot of fake news circulating too. If a reasonably educated person can get duped by fake news, can you imagine what it is like for a person with no or limited education with nowhere else to rely on for fact-checking? So educating, and re-educating is the only way to go with proper experts from activist and doctors using whatever platform and resources they have to drive the facts home repeatedly.
The access and distribution of quality products – In cities, there is easy access to menstrual products. Pads, tampons, menstrual cups and reusable sanitary napkins are available at chemists, your neighbourhood store and through numerous e-commerce vendors. However, the more remote a village is, the less likely is there to be access to these products and the more challenges one can expect to face in order to get them. Along with accessibility, one has to take into account that the affordability of the products is much too high considering this is never a one-time purchase but a once in a month purchase for at least five days. And in remote places, you won’t find quality products. This drives menstruators to look for alternative measures to get them through their cycles. Some women even resort to unsanitary alternatives such as ash, husk, sand or old pieces of cloth. This is why we must look at distribution models that take into account the cost and the accessibility of such products. We should be finding ways for hygienic, reusable products to reach these menstruators with minimal obstacles.
Pain Management – City dwellers have access to doctors, gynaecologists, chemists and medicines. There is a medication for managing pain and for regulating periods. You can even get medication to halt periods for whatever necessary reason. We have information on how to improve our overall health – regular exercise and healthy meal plans have a positive effect on pain. We are always on the lookout for holistic measures as well, such as yoga practices, or deep breathing or meditation to calm the stresses we carry, which in turn can contribute to pain. Where do people in rural villages have access to this kind of information?
The gap between urban and rural dwellers is humongous. Efforts must be made to close the gap, or at the very least minimise it. Governments, NGOs, activists, the medical community and society at large, much come together to share resources through education, financial support and products from the top level to the grassroots level. These are issues that are not only exclusive to India but are recurring themes and challenges that occur on a global scale.