While governments across the world are working fervently towards upliftment of women folk, right to safe periods is still a dream at infancy. The dedication of women who dared to challenge societal norms regarding periods paved the way for equal education and work rights for women. The thought that women were physically and mentally incapable of rational thinking due to periods, was nailed in a coffin.
Improving economic conditions and access to sanitary napkins have helped girls and women across the world to study, work and travel conveniently. WASH program has been launched worldwide to provide women the right to menstrual hygiene and comfort.
Even with extensive implementation and intervention of social organizations, millions of girls in Asia and Africa are forced to skip schools due to lack of water, sanitary napkins and privacy. As per Water Supply and Sanitation Council (WSSCC), 350 million women menstruate on any given day.
The pressure for mobilizing the access to facilities for management of menstruation is high, considering the social stigma attached to periods. The question remains that how much period benefits do women at work receive in their workplaces. Everyone is aware of the elephant in the room, but very few men and women treat this topic as the need of the hour.
The Need for Healthy Management of Menstruation
WSSCC, 2013 considers sidelining of menstrual hygiene needs of a woman, at any sphere of life, to be a violation of her rights. Management of menstruation in a healthy manner requires women to have access to knowledge as well as basic sanitary facilities.
- Socio-cultural influence and education play important roles in molding and preparing a girl for periods. Taboo surrounding periods force women to suffer in silence and their period rights are denied conveniently. Menstrual awareness instills confidence in women to manage periods properly.
- With awareness, comes the need to make safe absorption material easily accessible. Disposable sanitary napkins for Periods allow women to stay active without having to worry about stains and drying dirty rags.
- Sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups need to be changed as required. Without clean and separate facilities for changing and safely disposing used sanitary products, going to school or work becomes unfeasible.
Clean water, soap and basic facilities for washing and bathing are crucial in preventing infections and making periods manageable.
Period Friendly Workplace- Need of The Hour
The rate of contribution of women’s workforce across the globe is 48.5%.Menstruating women population aged 12-49 years present a significant portion of the 1.2 billion strong global women workforces.
This mandates the availability of provisions for menstrual hygiene in all workplaces. Not only is this helpful is solving the problem of reduced work performance due to period problems, it also saves female workers from fear of shame and stigma.
There are several spheres of Menstrual Hygiene Management, which workplaces should try to work on for providing a better work environment for women. With a little effort, women can feel safe in case of unexpected period visit or an extremely difficult period.
1. Hygiene Matters Most
From staining embarrassment to suffering from infections due to prolonged use of sanitary napkins for Periods, women have seen it all. Heathy management of periods is an overlooked matter in moderate- and low-income nations.
Inadequate WASH facilities compromise women’s health and affect their work productivity negatively. The situation worse in small industries like textile, which predominantly rely on women workforce. Women workers are forced to use discarded waste clothes from the factory as sanitary napkins. These are doused with chemicals and pose serious health threats.
A clean and private place for women to change sanitary products and clean themselves allows women to be stress-free and concentrate on work better.
2. Free Access to Sanitary Products
Period poverty is an overrated term. It stands for the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. This is one the prime reasons, why girls and women skip schools or work during periods. Rags are unhygienic, clumsy to use and cannot prevent stains.
Women workers can benefit from free sanitary napkins dispensers or tampon dispensers in workplaces. This gives them an opportunity to be encouraged to come to workplace and add to the productivity.
In urban working population, women can save their dignity in case of unexpected periods. Availability of sanitary products provides them the convenience to manage their periods without the need to carry them all the time in their bags.
3. Convenient and Discrete Menstrual Waste Disposal
Menstrual waste management is a pressing issue. Those using synthetic tampons and sanitary napkins for Periods need to dispose them in regular intervals. But lack of separate sanitary bins or waste collection methods can pose health and environmental hazard.
In India alone, 12 % of disposable sanitary product users generate a whopping 9000 tons of non-biodegradable waste every year. Most of this waste ends up being flushed in toilets or strewn in land-fills.
Bins to collect sanitary wastes is a necessity of WASH facility in any workplace. These should be collected and emptied regularly by garbage collecting body. Incinerators are a superior option when it comes to sanitary waste disposal. It burns the sanitary waste at high temperatures, reducing waste load and risk for spread of infections.
Periods can be difficult in some cases. Some even require a visit to doctor’s clinic. Disorders like menorrhagia, dysmenorrhea and PMS can cripple women during menstruation. It is estimated that 14-25% of women suffer from menstrual irregularities. Debilitating cramps, mood swings and heavy flow can cause stress as well as low work productivity.
Symptoms related to difficult periods are overlooked in many workplaces. Inability to speak up or inadequate support from workplace results in women suffering in silence.
Period friendly policies like period leaves and work from home flexibility are small but significant steps to alleviate the pain of women employees. This makes them feel included and cared for.
Equality driven workforce requisites addressing the topic of menstruation with priority. Breaking the taboo surrounding periods at workplace diminishes the pressure on women to hide or cover their periods instead of moving ahead. Women need care and protection during periods, as much as they need it when they are sick.