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Pujafula Pattnayak

Menstrual Hygiene Day, observe on May 28 each year, aims to break taboos and raise awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene management worldwide. It was initiated by the Germany-based NGO, WASH United in 2014. The Biological process of Menstruation in India continues
 to be enveloped in a culture of silence and shame. Inequitable gender norms Manifest in the social, religious and food intake restrictions imposed on Menstruating girls and women, and the pervasive belief that Menstrual Blood is impure and that Menstruating women and girls are unclean, untouchable for that period. There are socio cultural myths attached to the restriction of food consumptions and worshiping too.

The research on MHM in India underscores low levels of awareness, and several myths and misconceptions. 48% girls aware of menstruation prior to menarche. 23% girls know that uterus is the source of bleeding. 55% girls consider menstruation to be normal. 70% women who are the major source to guide their daughters consider menstruation is dirty and perpetuating a culture of silence. (Source: Dasra (2014). Spot On! Improving Menstrual Health and Hygiene in India )

However, normalising menstruation requires addressing gender inequalities and provision of correct information across the value chain of menstruation to ensure that Girls and women overcome stigma, shame and taboos , Girls and women are able to manage their menstruation safely, and Influencers have a comprehensive understanding of their experience and barriers Need to find the Linkages of gender and sexual and reproductive health with menstruation by Socio-cultural norms and perceptions including myths and taboos.

When we think Waste management as a part of MHM, we have to rethink about Mechanisms for safe disposal,
Considerations for on-site incineration,
Considerations for adding to solid waste stream,
Implications of throwing in fields, water bodies, sanitation systems, Considerations for deep burial, composting
Design of WASH facilities. Of 336 Million girls and women experiencing Menstruation in India, it can be estimated that approximately 121 Million girls and women are currently using locally or commercially produced disposable sanitary napkins.This Means that 36 percent of the Market is currently Being reached through commercial and government entities. (National family Health Survey – 4). However, the organized sector is estimated to have a much lower penetration of approximately 15 percent2. The difference is presumably due to a significant increase in use of sanitary pads amongst the youth – 57.6 percent of girls in the age group of 15-24 are currently using locally or commercially produced sanitary pads (Source: International Institute of population Sciences (2017). National family Health Survey – 4, 2015 – 2016: India fact Sheet ). This may be due to the focus on increasing adolescents’ access to sanitary pads through various Government run schemes (KHUSI in Odisha, recently launched) in schools
and Angawadi centers. There is also a large and growing self-help group driven manufacturing industry, which sells machines for manufacturing disposable sanitary napkins. These locally-made sanitary napkins are also facilitated by schemes further research is necessary to understand the detailed factors behind this increase in access to products. While this shows significant leaps in access to
safe and hygienic products for MHM, it also raises the issue of sustainable waste management of these products, once disposed as well as the overall sustainability of the schemes. Over 1 Billion non compostable sanitary pads are making their way to urban sewerage systems, and landfills, rural fields and water bodies in India every month. (leBlanc, 2017).

Given the importance of considering environmental impact as a key factor in the current scenario, the overall product landscape has been segregated into three broad categories: Re-usable
products that can be used multiple times having
life span of 1-10 years resulting in minimal disposal impact, which requires Hygienic use requires care and maintenance. Example: Cloth pads, Hybrid pads (with non cloth barrier), Menstrual Cups.  Compostable disposable  products with high degree of compostable content having One time use and materials conducive to composting; limited impact on disposal, layers sealing aborbent layer should have high degree of compostability but  limited players in India with only one product variant each due to higher cost than non- compostable. Example: Sanitary pads – banana fibre or wood pulp and Tampons. Non compostable disposable are
one time use with compostable absorbent layer typically sealed within non-compostable layers. Which Can take 250 years to fully decompose. largest market share and reach in India with multiple players (MNCs, social enterprises, SHG units, Government network). Cellulose based sanitary pads with plastic barriers or with plastic barriers and SAP

Management of menstrual waste to include the entire value chain including awareness, access, use, and waste management across urban and rural settings, and communities and institutions. Menstrual hygiene management programs to incorporate effects of disposal and treatment for the complete range of menstrual hygiene products (reusable, compostable and non-compostable disposable products) on users and on the environment. Uniform standards and guidelines to be drafted and implemented for currently available menstrual waste management technologies, especially incinerators, composting pits, and waste to resource technologies Catalyse support for research and development of environmentally sound waste management two main concerns are central
to the management of menstrual waste in India: first, many
girls and women lack access to appropriate waste management options that may lead to the unhygienic use of safe absorbents, for instance, girls using a single pad for 12 hours. Secondly, the paucity of disposal and treatment options may lead to the unsafe management of a mounting volume of menstrual waste. (International Institute for population Sciences (2017). National family Health Survey -4, 2015-2016: India fact Sheet). Against this backdrop, two solutions currently exist. Incinerators have emerged as a favoured disposal and treatment option, particularly in schools.
With impetus from the Swachh Bharat Mission, specifically the MHM Guidelines for Schools and
the recently released gender guidelines by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the use
of incinerators is likely to grow. On the other hand, cities like Bangalore and pune are implementing solid waste interventions to effectively segregate and identify menstrual waste during routine garbage collection. Menstrual waste enters the solid waste stream and is subject to the same treatment as other solid waste – placed in landfills to disintegrate over hundreds of years. Menstrual waste can contaminate water sources, clog drains and Burning of commercially available pads at low temperatures can create odours and expose nearby population, again Burial is not done effectively, and without appropriate composting, waste will take hundreds of years to degrade

To manage menstrual waste appropriately. However, challenges exist in terms of cost and variations in incinerator technologies and their effectiveness in emission reductions, scale of operations, product use and environmental impact. What is clear is that the management of menstrual waste is lagging far behind the fast growing disposable product market. If sanitary pads are
to be a safe, hygienic option for girls and women, safe management of menstrual waste must be part of programmatic and policy dialogues. The voices of girls and women, as well as of waste collectors need to be incorporated to ensure that appropriate solutions are implemented.

Low cost waste management can be adapted option like clay pot, local made incinators. The Ministry of Urban Development Offer safe and appropriate waste management solutions in addition to incinerators, specifying their suitability for various types of products, and their environmental impact. 
Development of protocols, standards and accreditation for incinerators 
should adopt easy affordable accessible methods of disposal of menstruation waste soon otherwise the whole Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Need to develop standards for a wider basket of menstrual hygiene products, including reusable products, disposable pads, and compostable pads.

May 29, 2018 • No Comment