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Experts called for education at schools, for both boys and girls, to remove the shame associated with menstruation

A webinar on menstrual health sought to break the culture of silence and taboos surrounding menstruation.

S. Pradeeba, former head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Thanjavur Medical College Hospital, said knowledge of physiology and the psycho-social issues connected to the menstrual cycle were vital to take the conversation beyond linking menstruation to motherhood.

The webinar, ‘Building an enabling environment for menstrual health management’, held on Tuesday, was organised by the Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) and included Charmila Ayyavoo, president of the State MHM Consortium, eco-feminist and menstrual activist Kavya Menon of Aware Foundation, A.S. Padmavathi, gender specialist and Bimla Chandrasekaran of Ekta Resource Centre for Women, Madurai; C.K. Veeranan, additional CEO of the Rural Livelihood Mission and Niladri Chakraborti, lead practice, Indian Institute for Human Settlements.

The speakers said both men and women should engage in the discussion about puberty and the menstrual cycle. “It is important to educate youngsters not just about the menstrual cycle, but also about sex, sexuality, sexual pleasure and the importance of consent,” said Ms. Menon, calling for a combined education in school to remove the shame associated with menstruation.

Dr. Charmila called for encouraging boys to understand the reproductive process. Also, it is necessary to educate women on the repercussions of undergoing hysterectomies, she said citing a study of rural women which found that those who underwent hysterectomies suffered from osteoporosis. She advised “consistent exercise to address stress and physical issues during period.”

May 28 was observed as Menstrual Hygiene Management Day, said Ms. Chandrasekaran, pointing out that school girls avoided drinking water during school hours for want of clean toilets but this adversely affected their health. Festivals like Red Thiruvizha to celebrate the power of women. is a way to break the taboo, she said.

Mr. Veeranan spoke about programmes by self-help groups in manufacturing sanitary pads in rural areas and Mr. Niladri spoke about focussed group discussions on the subject by TNUSSP for schoolgirls and women in the backward regions of Coimbatore and Tiruchi.