J-K ranks lowest in menstrual protection, hygiene in north India

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Srinagar: Nearly 60 percent of women in Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) still use cloth for menstrual protection during periods as the erstwhile state ranks the lowest in north India with regard to the use of sanitary napkins, reveals the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

The NFHS-5, released last week and reviewed by The Kashmir Walla, further states that J-K also ranks the lowest in north India with only 74.5 percent of women using ‘hygienic methods’ for menstrual protection.

As per the survey (2019-2021), merely 50.5 percent of women aged between 15-24 use sanitary napkins. However, the number has swelled from 48.8 percent in NFHS-4 (2015-2016).

Dr. Auqfeen Nisar, a doctor associated with the Government Medical College, Srinagar, who ran crowdfunding campaigns under ‘Panin Fiker’ to provide sanitary napkins to the poor, believes that “more than affordability, [the issue is] lack of awareness.”

In a phone interview, Dr. Nisar told The Kashmir Walla that “There is a government scheme in place, but it doesn’t cover counseling. It just provides sanitary pads at subsidized rates.” 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare introduced a scheme for the promotion of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 in rural areas. The sanitary napkin packs, containing 6 pieces each, are branded as “Freedays”. This scheme in J-K covers ten districts, including seven from Jammu and three from Kashmir.

The latest survey also showed that only 42.7 percent of women take a bath during their menstrual period. That is in stark difference from the other states and the second-lowest in India. 

“Myths like taking a bath during your menstruation will bloat your face or cause infertility is a big problem here,” Dr. Nisar said. “It’s important to talk about these things, and for that, counseling sessions and awareness videos should be more frequently in place to help these women understand hygiene.”

“To make the older generation understand that what they’ve been doing for years should be changed is impossible,” she added. “Hence, it’s important to educate adolescent girls about periods and hygiene in schools to tackle the stigma around it.”

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