'Majority of rural women deprived of hygiene care'

The survey, carried out by leading global information and measurement company AC Nielsen, and reviewed and endorsed by NGO Plan India, reveals the dismal state of feminine hygiene care in India.

According to gynaecologists, the use of alternative sanitary care measures such as unsterilised cloths, sand and ash make women susceptible to infections and diseases.
The study found that awareness on the basic health and feminine hygiene is very low, with 75 per cent rural women lacking adequate knowledge on menstrual hygiene and care.

On the issue of affordability of good quality sanitary care, it found 81 per cent rural women use unsterilised cloths since they are cheaper and 68 per cent said they cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins available in the market.

Adolescent girls in rural India are unable to attend up to 50 days of schooling in a year due to inadequate menstrual care, it said.

The survey was conducted in October with the participation of 1,033 rural women in the menstrual age group and 151 gynaecologists from different parts of India.

Altogether 97 per cent gynaecologists surveyed believe that sanitary napkins can act as a preventive measure against reproductive tract infection.

The survey said among the adolescent rural girls, 23 per cent (aged 12-18 years) discontinue studies due to inadequate sanitary facilities in schools.

Of the 35.5 crore menstruating women in India, only 12 per cent use sanitary napkins. The figure is abysmal, compared to countries like China, where majority of women use sanitary napkins, the survey maintained.

Poor financial condition does not allow majority of the women to buy quality sanitary napkins, it said, adding of cloth users, 45 per cent reuse cloth and 70 per cent dry them in the shade, increasing chances of infections.

They cope with sub-optimal alternatives like cloth, sand, husk and even ash, which have severe consequences on the health, education and reproductivity of girls and women, it said.

“Menstruation is a subject that has culturally been considered a taboo and is entrenched with misconceptions and disregard, with little cognisance of the hazards of inadequate menstrual protection. The survey has highlighted how the subject of feminine hygiene is grossly neglected at all levels,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India.

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