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Bangladesh grapples with poor menstrual health management

  • Published at 07:57 pm May 22nd, 2018
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Many girls considered the menstrual period to be an illness and because of lack of awareness, about 85% students used old cloth during menstruation

Most students of Thakurgaon Government Women’s College used to miss classes for two to three days every month. When the college authorities realized that the absence affected the students’ studies, they decided to find out the cause and come up with a solution.

The students skipped classes after the beginning of their menstruation cycle. So, Principal Abu Bakar Siddik came up with a solution – distributing sanitary pads for free among the students.

“Since then, the students no longer miss classes during their menstruation,” he said.

In a 2014 survey, around 40% female respondents said they skipped school during menstruation. The Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey 2014 noted that menstrual hygiene management remained a challenge, especially in schools, since the knowledge on it was poor.

Only 36% knew about menstruation before menarche. Almost one third of the female students thought that menstrual problems interfered with their school performance, the survey found.

Many girls considered the menstrual period to be an illness and because of lack of awareness, about 85% students used old cloth during menstruation.

The survey found that there was one toilet for every 187 students nationally. But there should be one toilet for every 50 students, said Nasrin Begum, assistant coordinator (training cell) of Bangladesh Nari Pragati Sangha (BNPS).

There has been no new survey or study on menstrual hygiene management since then.

A 2013 icddr,b survey found that as many as 82% of the girls used rags during menstruation while 1% used pads at schools.

Dr Elvina Mustary, deputy director at Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Program, emphasized raising awareness to help girls deal with menstruation-related issues.

“It is a natural process and a vital sign of the healthy reproductive cycle of women and girls. It is not a sickness but women and girls may suffer from abdominal pains, nausea, tiredness, headache, backache or discomfort. Because of this, they do not want to leave home or go to school,” she said.

She emphasized that menstrual disorders and health conditions were associated with poor menstrual hygiene.

Red Orange Media and Communications is working on menstrual healthcare through its RITU project since 2016 with the support of Simavi, TNO, BNPS, Development Organization of the Rural Poor, and the Netherlands government.

Its Head of Programs Nakib Rajib Ahmed said the project, which is in operation at eight upazila’s in Netrokona, aimed at raising awareness on menstrual health management by delivering information on menstrual hygiene and how a girl can lead a healthy life by adopting some practices.

“We are working to make sure the schools have menstruation-friendly toilets for girls because ignorance leads to poorer menstrual health management,” Rajib added.

Mustary said girls at schools, colleges and even at homes need menstruation-friendly toilets so that they do not feel inconvenient.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said the government had arranged separate toilets for girls at every school built since 2009.

“We are also providing hygiene facilities for girls. We are constructing separate toilets at many old school buildings that did not have them,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

Nahid said textbooks now had chapters on menstrual health management, adding: “Teachers are being trained so that they can explain the issues to the female students, help eliminate their fears and improve [their] class attendances [during menstruation].”

The government has plans to work more on the issue so that the students get pads, tissues and hand washing facilities during menstruation, the minister added. l

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