For millions of women in India the onset of menstruation is fraught with emotional anxiety, social stigma and a lack of agency.
A report sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows that till the onset of puberty, girls are often on a par with boys. For instance the percentage of out of school boys and girls in the age group of 6 to 10 was 5.51 percent and 6.87 percent, respectively.
However for the adolescent age group that is between 11 to 13 years the percentage of out of school children is much higher among girls at 10 percent than boys at 6.46 percent.
Now this divergence can be attributed to many factors including the expectation that girls will do the heavy lifting when it comes to domestic chores, the lack of access to safe transportation or toilets, poor financial conditions among many others.
The report highlights that in India 71 percent of girls report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.
Girls do not have consistent access to quality menstrual health product with almost 88 percent of women and girls in India using homemade alternatives like old cloth, rags or even ash.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown has added to the existing challenges. A survey conducted by the Menstrual Health Alliance of India in April 2020, of 45 organisations which included NGOs and manufacturers found that access to sanitary pads was impacted and there was restricted access to shared sanitation facilities.
The survey reiterated the need for greater advocacy and awareness and bring the supply of menstrual hygiene products within the ambit of a central supplies.
Network 18 in association with P&G launched a campaign to address some of these challenges related to the management of menstrual hygiene and hope that this dialogue will spur policy makers, corporate citizens and civil society to work together.
To discuss the initiative, Shereen Bhan spoke to Madhusudan Gopalan, CEO of P&G Indian Subcontinent.Watch video for more.