The broad-brush meaning of ‘menstrual’ refers to the period just preceding menstruation. This brings to light the less of a generic term – Premenstrual Syndrome. It accounts for all the physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the one to two weeks before a woman’s menstruation commences.
The emotional symptoms may include depression, angry outbursts, irritability and social withdrawal. The physical symptoms may range from thirst and appetite changes, breast tenderness, bloating and weight gain, headache, swelling of the hands or feet, aches and fatigue, skin problems, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms often last for around six days. The above-mentioned symptoms do not occur during pregnancy or following menopause.
Today, due to much of the hectic efforts taken by several NGOs, social media portals, icons speaking for women, Corporate Social Responsibilities performed by various corporates, film and entertainment industry talking about it – all these together are bringing about gradual but immense changes in the context of awareness on menstrual health and hygiene. There are excellent instances when voluntary efforts taken by individuals/groups have come into the spotlight . The very recent Bollywood movie ‘Padman’ talks about the same.
In a country like ours where hygiene is a secondary issue for the common mass especially for the inhabitants of the remote areas, subtle significant zones like those of Premenstrual Education takes a backseat. It would not be wrong to say that almost a decade has passed since some folks in our ambience have been talking about incorporating Menstrual Health education as a part of a regular curriculum in schools. With no defiance, we do accept that adolescent education and the basics of the menstrual cycle is being taught in schools, but the inevitable truth is that we are yet hesitant in talking about menstruation. This gap in the ‘give & take information process’ leads to “generational cycle of ignorance”.
Since ages people have been uncomfortable in talking about such vital and peculiar issue. Waiting for the girl to encounter with her first menstrual cycle and then letting her know about its How’s and Why’s may be too late. In today’s physiological and ecological scenario, a number of girls face their menarche at the age of 8. Thus, education curriculum involving Menstrual Health Management guidelines and teachings is a must. When encountering menarche, the body undergoes several changes. These changes may lead to a number of questions in such tender and ignorant minds. Teachers creating a friendly, comfortable and openness-to-talk kind of environment may help impactfully to a large extent.
A report by Water Aid stated that 2 out of 3 girls in Ethiopia do not receive the premenstrual education. FAWE Uganda reports 1 out of 2 Ugandan girls report missing 1-3 days of school per month due to menstruation. One can encounter the same statistics all over the world. Premenstrual Education enables girls to stay in school by ensuring knowledge about hygienic menstrual products and disposal options. It also enables them to learn about a variety of reusable period collection methods. Menstrual cups and cloth pads help girls maintain their hygiene and period on an affordable budget while keeping in mind the environment.
Premenstrual Education may also play a vital role in eradicating the social stigma related to menstruation which can then establish a much comfortable environment for our girls. This is a necessity in today, as well as the forthcoming days as hampering of education due to menstruation, cannot be thought of as an excuse well enough. The monthly suffering of girls in staying away from schools sounds no good in terms of her and the nation’s development. Educating about the symptoms, it’s causes and clauses through a significant learning process and kits in schools is a must now and a requirement that needs to go hand-in-hand with the regular curriculum.
‘Menstrupedia Comic’ – A friendly guide for periods basically designed for the Indian context teaches girls & their teachers about menstrual health. Published in 2015 by Aditi Gupta also involves animated video tutorials. Other books that exist to eradicate the ignorance on menstruation are ‘The Period Book- A girl’s guide to growing up’, ‘Tunu’s Gift – An African tale about menstrual health’. Short videos, stories and talks can act as a path leading to breaking negative social norms on Premenstrual Education.
With efforts continuing to abolish ignorance and giving our girls space and wings to fly without worrying about their menses we soon hope to see a better world for girls.