Close to 70% women aged 15 to 24 in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Chhattisgarh use cloth for protection during their menstrual period, even as India’s average stands at 49.6%, government data shows.
On the other hand, in cities like Chandigarh (10.7%) and Delhi (15.9%), this share is quite low.
Across India, in at least four states, more than 65% women from the said age group use cloth during their menstrual period — Uttar Pradesh (69.4%), Assam (69.1%), Chhattisgarh (68.6%) and Bihar (67.5%), as per the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21).
“Using a hygienic method of menstrual protection is important for women’s health and personal hygiene. In NFHS-5, women aged 15-24 were asked what method or methods they use for menstrual protection. In India, 64% use sanitary napkins, 50% use cloth and 15% use locally prepared napkins. Overall, 78% of women in this age group use a hygienic method of menstrual protection,” the report said.
In the previous survey, NFHS-4 (2015-16), in India, 42% were using sanitary napkins, 62% used cloth, and 16% used locally prepared napkins. “Overall, 58% of women in this age group use a hygienic method of menstrual protection,” NFHS-4 read.
Further, the rate of women using safe menstrual products was the least in Bihar (59.2%), Madhya Pradesh (60.9%) and Meghalaya (65.3%), as per NFHS-5.
The survey adds that locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups are considered to be hygienic methods of protection. It also says that respondents may report multiple methods for protection during their menstruation.
It suggests that women with 12 or more years of schooling are more than twice as likely to be using a hygienic method compared to women with no schooling — 90% versus 44%.
“Women in the highest wealth quintile are almost twice as likely to use a hygienic method as women in the lowest wealth quintile (95% versus 54%). Seventy-three per cent of rural women use a hygienic method of menstrual protection compared to 90 per cent of urban women,” it adds.
ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTH
Good menstrual hygiene is essential for the health and dignity of girls and women. Discussions on menstrual hygiene are important for adolescent girls to clarify myths and misconceptions around menstruation.
Improving menstrual hygiene is important from the point of view of personal comfort and increased mobility. It also reduces the likelihood of infections resulting from poor hygiene practices during menstruation.
Providing girls with knowledge and skills on maintaining menstrual hygiene improves school attendance among girls, who otherwise may not attend school during those days or even drop out of school altogether.