A new report published by UNICEF and WaterAid found that more than a third of girls in South Asia miss school during their periods, mainly due to lack of access to toilets and pads in schools and no proper education about menstruation.
‘Period poverty’ is the term used when there is a lack of sanitary products, and other essentials like toilets with clean water due to financial constraints in the region. According to the report, most of the schools in South Asia fell short of the WHO standards of one toilet for every 25 girls.
Though the UN has recognised menstrual hygiene as a global public health and human rights issue, globally 1.2 billion women lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene.
“Girls have an irrevocable right to education, which is lost if they feel unable to attend lessons because of a lack of sanitary products or clean, private toilets at school,” said Tim Wainwright, WaterAid chief executive, in a statement. “Governments simply need to ensure that every school has clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.”
With taboos and superstitions in different countries, even an open discussion in schools is impossible and about 71% of girls in India are unaware about menstruation before their first period.
The report calls on government agencies and NGOs to increase efforts to provide proper sanitation. The government should also include menstrual hygiene management as a component in its health policy and device strategies to address this issue plaguing the country.
Movies like PadMan and #YesIBleed campaign caused a small stir in the country, but still statistics say that in India 60% of adolescent girls missed school on account of menstruation and about 80% still use home-made pads.