50% of adolescent girls (aged 15 years to 19 years) in poor urban areas do not have access to hygienic methods of managing periods
Economically developed states like Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and the union territory of Delhi exhibited a higher adoption rate of hygienic methods
Hyderabad / June 17, 2023: UNESCO India and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, one of India’s top ten universities according to the NIRF 2023 Rankings, have joined forces to launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness about menstrual health and hygiene management, particularly among women, including young girls attending school Hyderabad during an event organized by the Gender Equality and Integrated Holistic Health Working Groups of C20 India at the B.M. Birla Science Museum in Hyderabad. Introducing five teaching-learning modules developed by UNESCO India with Procter & Gamble, Whisper, the campaign was nationally inaugurated at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad on the 8th of June 2023. These modules address the various challenges associated with menstrual health and hygiene management, such as disability, gender, educators, young adults, and nutrition.
Titled “Spotlight Red,” the teaching-learning modules offer comprehensive resources and strategies for learners, educators, menstruators, and community leaders. Their purpose is to enhance understanding and skills related to menstruation management while fostering awareness about its societal impact. The modules aim to empower adolescents from diverse backgrounds, including girls with disabilities, by providing them with access to period and puberty education. Moreover, they seek to create a supportive environment through interventions at the school, state, and national levels, enabling these adolescents to continue their education.
UNESCO India and P&G also launched a National Survey and Gap Analysis report on Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management under the #KeepGirlsinSchool campaign. The report revealed that in poor urban areas, 50% of adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) lack access to hygienic methods for managing their periods. However, economically developed states like Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and the union territory of Delhi exhibited a higher adoption rate of hygienic methods. More than 220 people attended the event, including girl students, teachers from various schools in Hyderabad, along with civil society organisations. The #KeepGirlsinSchool initiative enjoys the support of advocacy partners, including the UNESCO Chair for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and the Civil20 India Working Groups on Gender Equality and Integrated Holistic Health.
Distinguished guests attending the launch included Chief Guest Dr. Soumya Mishra, IPS, Additional Director General of Police, DGP Office, Hyderabad; Guest of Honour, Mrs. D Hari Chandana, IAS, from the Chief Secretary Office, Secretariat, Hyderabad; Dr. Huma Masood, Senior Gender Specialist at UNESCO India; Ms. Shilpi Gupta, Supply Chain Manager at Whisper, Procter and Gamble India; and Dr. Pragnatha Komaravolu, Pediatric Consultant at Amrita Hospital, Kochi.
Dr. Huma Masood, Gender Specialist at UNESCO New Delhi Multisectoral Regional Office, stated, “Spotlight Red – A UNESCO and P&G Whisper initiative, #KeepGirlsinSchool, is a comprehensive approach to address the urgent need for menstrual health and hygiene management in schools. With 23 million girls dropping out annually due to lack of proper facilities and information, we combine education and advocacy to empower every learner and menstruator. The fact that the Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the topic in his speech for Independence Day in 2020 was unexpected and unprecedented. The Government of India through its various schemes and programmes has ensured inclusion and equal access to menstrual products and education. Our teaching-learning modules cover gender empowerment, teacher training, persons with disabilities, nutrition and health, and early childhood education. We aim to eliminate stigma and biases through dialogue, bringing about a brighter future for all menstruators. Together, let’s revolutionize menstrual health and hygiene management in India.”
Guest of Honour, Mrs. D Hari Chandana, IAS, Chief Secretary Office, Secretariat, Hyderabad, addressed the audience, stating, ” Let us embrace and be proud of the power of womanhood, for it is through this ability to reproduce that we shape a healthy future. Menstrual hygiene is not just a campaign, but a vital movement that demands our collective support. We must educate not just girls, but also boys, fathers, and every individual, breaking cultural taboos and promoting awareness. Sustainable options like menstrual cups and reusable pads can ensure accessibility for all. Together, as change-makers, we have the power to transform society. Let us spread this message, inspire others, and create a brighter future.”
Dr. Soumya Mishra, IPS, Additional Director General of Police, DGP Office, Hyderabad, commented, “The incident we recently heard about, where a brother mistakenly killed his sister due to a lack of understanding about menstrual hygiene, highlights the importance of educating not just girls but also boys on this topic. Menstrual health and hygiene management, launched as part of the #KeepGirlsinSchool initiative by UNESCO, is a vital campaign that promotes gender equality. It addresses various challenges, such as stigma, lack of knowledge, inadequate facilities, and the impact on education, health, and economic status. The civil society, including educational institutions like ours, must actively contribute to this cause. By providing comprehensive education, access to menstrual products, and creating a supportive environment, schools can play a crucial role in empowering girls, improving their health, and ensuring they stay in school. Let us work together to normalize menstruation, eliminate stigma, and create a more equitable and inclusive society. As Miss Henrietta Ford, the Executive Director of UNICEF, rightly said, ‘Every girl has the right to manage her menstruation safely and with dignity.’ By investing in menstrual hygiene management, we can unlock the potential of girls and accelerate progress towards gender equality. Together, let us commit to making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030, as we strive towards a brighter future for all. ”
Ms. Shilpi Gupta, Supply Chain Manager at Whisper, Procter and Gamble India, expressed, “Today, 1 in 5 girls drop out of school due to a lack of menstruation education and products. Shockingly, 70% of girls are unaware of periods when they first experience them. Girls we encounter in cities and towns express their confusion, mistaking menstruation for an illness and lacking guidance. We can agree mothers are a girl’s closest friends, teachers and confidant as per report, seven out of 10 mothers lack knowledge about menstruation as well. I take immense pride in collaborating with UNESCO to unveil inclusive and exhaustive teaching modules. These cover not only period information but also nutrition, diverse genders, and guidance for teachers and parents. Changing even one girl’s life can have a significant impact. My hope is for our daughters to attend school and experience their first period without confusion or embarrassment. They should be able to live, play, and study with confidence and comfort.”
Said Dr. Bhavani Rao, C20 Coordinator of the Working Group on Gender Equality and UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: “We are honored to have Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi as the C20 Chair, and under her leadership, five working groups focusing on integrated holistic health and gender equality are being hosted during India’s G20 Presidency. The topic of menstrual health has consistently emerged in our policy deliberations, aligning perfectly with the themes of these groups. It is crucial to shift the conversation towards environmentally friendly products and ensure the active involvement of women in their manufacturing and marketing. We strongly recommend the inclusion of civil society voices in promoting menstrual health and hygiene, particularly for young and school-going girls, and advocating for the development of eco-friendly alternatives. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham remains deeply committed to gender equality and healthcare, with Chancellor Mata Amritanandamayi Devi leading transformative projects such as empowering 2,500 women through self-help groups across the country. Furthermore, she has established super-specialty hospitals in Kochi, Kerala since 1998 and Faridabad in 2022 “
During the event, UNESCO showcased a comprehensive survey and gap analysis report, accompanied by a series of short films that effectively portrayed different dimensions of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management. These films shed light on the diverse experiences and perspectives related to this vital subject matter, spanning across seven states in India. To further break down barriers and eliminate stigma surrounding periods, an empowering “Pride of Period Anthem” was also presented, fostering a more promising and inclusive future for all individuals who menstruate.