Lucknow: Its Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 28th, 2018 and this year’s theme is, ‘EMPOWERMENT’. All of us know and have heard of the issue but how many of us talk about it. If you ever have gone to a medical store to buy a packet of sanitary pads, the shopkeeper first wraps it in a paper and then puts it safely covered in a black polybag treating it like an atomic isotope which could just be not allowed to be seen in broad daylight. Why that shame, why that insecurity?

Menstruation since time immemorial has been surrounded by taboos and myths. Why not for once can we take this as a normal biological process which females go through.

It was a great effort by the Water Aid Society to provide people with an open mike forum, where people from all walks of life came and expressed their thoughts on the issues related to menstruation and menstrual hygiene. It was great to see even men participating in the talk at Sheroes hangout, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow.

There were several taboos an myths that people talked about at the open mike but one thing which grabbed my attention was the talk regarding “incinerator” to dispose off menstrual waste generated by the women.

Do you have an incinerator to dispose of menstrual waste generated by the women in your family? You may be an urban dweller, but most likely your answer would be a “no”.

But ask the same question to the girls from Lalpur village in Mohanlal Ganj Block of Lucknow, and they will proudly point at the incinerator they have at their homes for this purpose. All households in this village have this indigenously developed incinerator to dispose of menstrual waste.

Known as matka (earthen pitcher), this earthen incinerator has been specifically made for the purpose. It has a layer of soil and is lined with neem leaves. All menstruating females of that household discard their used sanitary pads in this matka and cover it with dried neem leaves. Once full, the waste is doused with some oil and set alight. The ash is then easily disposed off.

Neelima Gupta, who led this initiative, representing Vatsalya, in partnership with WaterAid, says, “We have introduced this practice in a couple of villages across Lucknow and the response has been very encouraging. Now, women in these villages are relatively more conscious about their health and hygiene. In fact, improved hygiene has also improved the overall quality of life in these villages.”

Considering the relevance and simplicity of this innovation, one wonders why this is not replicated in a bigger geography. But Dr Neelam Singh, a gynaecologist and chief official of Vatsalya sounds hopeful. She says, “Officials from the State establishment of Swachh Bharat Mission have appreciated our initiative and are willing to replicate the model in other places. We are ready to join hands with them to scale this up and are in fact working out the possibilities. We expect great synergies in larger public interest.”

9000 tones Menstrual waste

According to a paper published in the British Medical Journal, it is estimated that roughly 9000 tonnes of menstrual waste is generated in India each month. This figure itself implies the need for proper menstrual waste disposal. This waste is largely disposed with household waste and is sadly sorted by bare-handed waste pickers, exposing them in particular and the community at large to several disease-causing micro-organisms.

So, the next time you look down upon a village woman for being backwards, remember, she may make you feel inadequate.