UNINHIBITED SHARING CIRCLE: INSIGHTS

Lack of privacy and space has a major impact on maintaining menstrual health with dignity
  • The effect on networks and grassroots projects due to immediate restrictions being placed.
  • Transition to remote mode of working with the team, and having to reimagine on ground work with access to communities cut off.
  • Limited budgets and funding is an ongoing challenge, especially with work being done prior to COVID, coming to a halt or having to adapt.
  • The digital divide became even more evident with lockdown, as menstruators’ inaccessibility to updated technology or phones led to further challenges in reaching them directly.
  • Menstruators with limited mobility to purchase sanitary napkins are left without a choice, they often turn to unhygienic homemade substitutes to maintain their menstruation until supply chains are restored.
  • Moreover, due to the lack of privacy, unavailability of menstrual materials, and restricted mobility, they are worn for longer time periods than they should be. Thus, increasing the risk of reproductive tract infections (RTI) and associated health issues for menstruators.
  • Reusable cloth pads came up as a natural alternative during this period. Ensuring safe and hygienic use cloth/ cloth pads is a high priority, as they may not be washed and dried thoroughly due to paucity of water and privacy, thus posing additional risk for infections.
  • Problems of hygiene, safe disposal, proper procurement of the menstrual requirements has also been exacerbated with anxiety, stress and lack of nutrition, culminating to debilitating health conditions for menstruators.
  • With the health care sector being overburdened with COVID response, there is widespread fear and lack of health care accessibility with respect MHH and SRH issues. (refer to glossary of terms below)
  • At the organizational level, management had to deal with issues pertaining to the dissemination of credible information, ensuring proper safety measures are in place, distribution of sanitary essentials, documentation, awareness generation, and reiterating engagement and operational strategies to continue working on the issue.
Exploring and leveraging technology platforms for outreach and education
  • Organisations had to reimagine their current operational strategies and redirect efforts on relief work, and finding out alternative ways of addressing menstrual health and hygiene through collaboration, research and innovation of existing products and intervention, or completely building a new product/service.
  • In light of that, few organisations with production capabilities utilized the existing resources to deal with emerging needs in the pandemic. The pad vending machines were used to produce three layer cloth masks ensuring continued production and employment. Many shared their quantum leaps in production of reusable sanitary napkins and cloth masks.
  • Across the ecosystem with direct outreach to communities cut off there is an emerging trend of partnerships with public and private entities, grassroots organisations, CSOs, and volunteers to ensure accessibility and work in the most marginalised areas and communities continues.
  • Organisations, collectives and individuals are developing new apps and platforms, while exploring various existing online platforms to ensure access to information continues.
  • Lengthy curriculums, training and IEC materials are being reimagined into bit size video and audios for ease of consumption and dissemination for the beneficiaries.
  • While musing over the challenges and breakthroughs, all participants common-grounded over key learnings and takeaways of working through the pandemic.
Coming together to ideate, brainstorm and support each other
  • With an urgent need to shift our interventions online, there needs to be a focus on making IEC material available in different vernaculars, also making it more comprehensible and potent.
  • Making the available IEC materials across the ecosystem open source, so that efforts are not wasted in reinventing the wheel.
  • Menstrual material shortages have led to question the widespread dependence of menstruators on single-use disposable sanitary products. Therefore there is an emerging critical need to focus on making available safe and hygienic reusable menstrual products in the marginalised communities.
  • Collaborating, mobilising and engaging with motivated volunteers from civil society came up as a huge potential in bringing change at the grassroots, and help with limited capacities within the organisation. Adding value in expanding horizons, while significantly contributing towards community development and creating a larger momentum and awareness about the work being done in the MHH ecosystem in India.
  • Data Collection and documentation has also emerged as a major challenge during the pandemic with direct access to communities and menstruators cut off, adding a higher risk of data not being authentic or genuine. Therefore, there is a need to explore and switch to alternative means of data collection through various channels, like social media marketing or phone calls.
  • Funding has been adversely affected especially within the sector as MHH is not seen as a priority issue during the pandemic by many donors, funders and CSRs. There is a critical need to build a “case for investment” backed with relevant data for the MHH ecosystem in India, while acknowledging the intersectionalities of the issue with others.
  1. COVID-19 Induced Menstrual Hygiene Management Adversities and Impact Assessment of Project Baala’s Intervention in Response to These Adversities in Peri-Urban Fringes of Delhi: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3733664
  2. The full English language set (13 motifs + 1 video) is available here: https://public.zenkit.com/c/hnYp2KTsa/2021-readytouse-campaign-materials-english?v=ZkeJvGSCGF&hide=filters,views,workspaceLists
  3. The 5 motifs with Hindi headlines can be downloaded here: https://public.zenkit.com/c/YrXRJQDy5/2021-campaign-materials-other-languages?v=oEWP9RYX1vD&hide=filters,views,workspaceLists
  • MHH- Menstrual Health and Hygiene
  • SRH- Sexual Reproductive Health
  • IEC- Information, Education and Communication
  • CSR- Corporate Social Responsibility
  • CSO- Civil Society Organisation

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Uninhibited

Uninhibited

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Previously Sukhibhava Foundation. Improving gender equity, health and wellbeing of marginalised menstruators across India