I understand you, because I was a girl too…
On the occasion of International Day for Rural Women (15th October 2014), Celebrated athlete and boxer and a mother,MC Mary Kom highlights the need to drive behaviour change to ensure good health for women and girls in the rural areas and the urban slums and urges people to help spread these messages across to the rural communities. As a part of “The Taj Must Smile” campaign, behaviour change will ensure that the women are able to lead a healthier lifestyle, girls and women are aware about their health needs during crucial days of menstruation, pregnancy and lactation.
Bringing up a child is like reliving your childhood and for a woman, in spite of all the pain, motherhood is the biggest joy of her life.A smooth and complications free pregnancy is also the most enjoyable time in a woman’s life. A girl’s life is often full of curiosities, anxieties and at times solitude. She needs to prepare for her journey as a woman very early in life, right when she hits her teens, when she first starts menstruating. Hitting puberty is a milestone in the life of a girl and how she deals with it, embarks a lap which could either be an exciting free ride or full of pitfalls and doldrums.
Menstruation in India has traditionally been associated with myths and taboos and adolescent girls find it extremely difficult to even discuss the issue with their parents or elders in the family. Over 23% of girls in India drop out of schools due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation measures in addition to the stress and psychological burden she is anyway facing because she thinks that menstruation is a problem.
I have personally faced similar issues; I have seen my acquaintance who were isolated and couldn’t even see- off their departed near and dear ones (attend funeral/rituals) because they were having their periods. They cannot enter kitchen, touch utensils and have to avoid contacts with family and friends. What an embarrassment…Can we continue to be unfair to these girls who are expected to bring a new life into this world tomorrow?Can we allow them to continue to be ignorant towards their health needs?
Menstruation is the first step towards a healthy motherhood but in India it is culturally considered dirty or impure. We need to break this taboo and teach our daughters that it is OK to have periods and it should not weigh them down mentally or physically or hold them back from accomplishing their dreams.As a growing girl we have all had our share of anxieties when we attained puberty imagine those girls in the rural areas who are not educated and informed about menstruation before they hit puberty. It can be quite a physiological as well as psychological burden. As mothers we
should not shy away from talking about periods to our daughters and educating them. It is time that we break this taboo about menstrual hygiene.
Ensuring proper hygiene for our daughters during puberty will also ensure that they are not vulnerable to any infections and grow up to be healthy women. In rural and tribal areas, girls continue to use sawdust, grass or mud during the periods which can lead to infections and even death. . We should tell our daughters to keep themselves that they should use sanitary napkins or a clean cloth during period and that they should bathe regularly and change their napkins or the cloth every 4- 6 hours to keep them clean and dry.
As a girl grows into a woman there are larger challenges that she need to face. Her health needs also increase, she takes care of the house, her family but does she get the needed care? More than 5 lakh women worldwide die annually from complications during childbirth which can be largely attributed to lack of proper nutrition, lack of proper post natal care and the large number of unassisted childbirths that happen at home. While taking care of her family a woman should also be made aware of her own health needs, she should have at least 100 IFA tablets during pregnancy, take balanced meals rich in vitamins and minerals, take adequate rest and deliver at a proper hospital to avoid any complications. She should also be told that all these facilities are available to her free of cost under the different government schemes like JananiShishuSurakshaKaryakram (JSSK).
400 years ago, “The TajMahal” was built in the memory of MumtazMahal, who died during child birth. The monument of love is also a reminder of those numerous mothers and children who lose their lives to easily preventable birth related complications. Today government has made all facilities available for pregnant mothers, now it is our duty to avail them, and to inform women to follow healthy behaviours to bring down maternal mortality rates, meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG 5) for India and MAKE THE TAJ SMILE.