Break the taboos around menstruation
In a society where menstruation is still a taboo subject, it is only natural that the issue of maintaining health hygiene during menstruation would also remain neglected. Despite the many programmes taken up by the government and its development partners to raise awareness in this regard, studies have found that a majority of women still do not use sanitary napkins or other menstruation hygiene products. The National Hygiene Survey conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2018 found that only 30 percent women in Bangladesh used disposable sanitary napkins, while only 32 percent knew about menstruation before they had it. Studies have also found that due to a lack of proper facilities, school absenteeism of girls remains a big challenge.
While many rural women, thanks to increasing awareness of late, now know about sanitary products, they simply cannot buy them due to lack of availability and also because menstruation is still a taboo topic. The price is also an issue here. How will women and girls from less privileged backgrounds afford to buy them if a single napkin cost Tk 10 and a packet of 10 napkins cost Tk 100 on average? Thus, they resort to using old clothes during their periods which is unhygienic and can lead to various infections. But, of course, there has been some progress over the last few years—around 85 percent of women used old clothes during menstruation in 2014, which reduced to 63 percent in 2019, the BBS study found.
In order to break the taboo around menstruation and educate girls about menstrual hygiene management, the subject should be included in the school curriculum in a proper way. While girls should know about menstruation before they have it, boys should also be sensitised about the subject. Moreover, all schools should have proper menstruation hygiene facilities so that girls do not have to stay at home during their period. All our educational institutions can consider setting up vending machines from where girls can get sanitary napkins whenever they need.
Moreover, in order to increase the use of sanitary napkins among women and girls, local pharmaceutical companies should come forward to produce and sell them at low cost. The government should give them the support they need to be successful in this regard. If all the stakeholders play their parts, we can hope to see a positive change in menstrual hygiene management in the country.