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Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham & UNESCO launch Menstrual Health & Hygiene Campaign in Coimbatore

UNESCO India and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, one of India's top ten universities according to the NIRF 2023 Rankings, have joined forces to launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness about menstrual health and hygiene management, particularly among women, including young girls attending school Coimbatore during an event organized by the Gender Equality and Integrated Holistic Health Working Groups of C20 India at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Campus in Ettimadai, Coimbatore with the support of OMNEX. Introducing five teaching-learning modules developed by UNESCO India with Procter & Gamble, Whisper, the campaign was nationally inaugurated at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad on the 8th of June 2023. These modules address the various challenges associated with menstrual health and hygiene management, such as disability, gender, educators, young adults, and nutrition.

Titled "Spotlight Red," the teaching-learning modules offer comprehensive resources and strategies for learners, educators, menstruators, and community leaders. Their purpose is to enhance understanding and skills related to menstruation management while fostering awareness about its societal impact. The modules aim to empower adolescents from diverse backgrounds, including girls with disabilities, by providing them with access to period and puberty education. Moreover, they seek to create a supportive environment through interventions at the school, state, and national levels, enabling these adolescents to continue their education.

UNESCO India and P&G also launched a National Survey and Gap Analysis report on Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management under the #KeepGirlsinSchool campaign. The report revealed that in poor urban areas, 50% of adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) lack access to hygienic methods for managing their periods. However, economically developed states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, and the union territory of Delhi exhibited a higher adoption rate of hygienic methods. More than 220 people attended the event, including girl students, teachers from various schools in Coimbatore, along with civil society organisations. The #KeepGirlsinSchool initiative enjoys the support of advocacy partners, including the UNESCO Chair for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham the Civil20 India Working Groups on Gender Equality and Integrated Holistic Health and OMNEX.

Distinguished guests attending the launch included chief guest Dr M Raveendran, MD, Dean, Govt Medical College & ESI hospital, Coimbatore; Dr. Subhashini, Medical Officer, Thondamuthur, Coimbatore; Ms Varsha Rawat, Brand Director, Whisper, P&G India; Dr. Huma Masood, Senior Gender Specialist, UNESCO India; Dr. Sudha Ramalingam, HOD, PSG IMSR, Department of Community Medicine, Coimbatore,(Air Cmde).Satish Menon, Campus Director, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham,Dr Rangasami P, Chairperson, Dept. of Social Work, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham

During the event, Dr. M Raveendran, MD, Dean, Govt Medical College & ESI hospital, Coimbatore, addressed and interacted with the students and highlighted the effects and stressed the importance of the topic of discussion, menstrual hygiene and health and its overall impact in the society and ones well being.

Ms Varsha Rawat, Brand Director, Whisper, P&G India, “For the past three decades, Whisper has been at the forefront of menstrual education, distributing free pads, and dispelling myths and taboos. Our efforts have impacted over 100 million girls and mothers in India. This year alone, our Whisper School Program has reached 65,000 schools, providing education on menstrual health and hygiene management. However, there is still much progress to be made. Shockingly, one in every five girls continues to drop out of school due to insufficient period education and lack of access to safe products. Additionally, 71% of girls experience confusion during their first menstruation. This highlights the urgent need for our comprehensive educational modules aimed at empowering young girls. These modules go beyond the basics of menstruation, ensuring inclusivity for girls with disabilities and acknowledging the experiences of individuals across different genders. We remain dedicated to equipping young girls with the knowledge and support they need.”

Dr. Subhashini, Medical Officer, Thondamuthur, Coimbatore, said, “Understanding menstruation is vital to alleviate anxiety, stress, and fear in girls experiencing it for the first time. Awareness and health education are key to realizing that menstruation is a normal, physiological, and biological process. It should neither be a source of shame nor a social taboo. Unfortunately, many students and families still feel embarrassed to discuss this topic openly, perpetuating misconceptions. As women, menstruation is a natural part of our lives, and its onset is called menarche. It is concerning to witness the rising cases of anemia among adolescents, posing risks for their future as potential mothers. Anemic pregnancies can lead to complications. I advise all students to prioritize their diet, considering that each menstrual cycle involves a loss of at least 28-53 mL of blood. Replenishing hemoglobin is crucial to prevent concentration difficulties and weakness. Adequate intake of greens, vegetables, water, and fruits is essential. Simple lifestyle changes like maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper hygiene can also address issues like PCOD.”

Dr. Sudha Ramalingam, Head of Department, PSG on Community Health, Coimbatore, said “Inadequate sanitation facilities, privacy concerns, and the absence of proper disposal options for disposable pads can contribute to female students frequently missing school. UNICEF has developed a checklist that outlines the necessary requirements to ensure menstrual hygiene-friendly facilities. Misinformation poses another significant challenge, especially with the proliferation of inaccurate information on social media platforms. In our module, we have emphasized the importance of relying on authentic sources to combat this issue effectively.”

Dr. Huma Masood, Senior Gender Specialist, UNESCO India, said “Each year, an estimated 23 million girls drop out of school due to insufficient menstrual health and hygiene management. This partnership signifies a crucial stride towards empowering every learner, every menstruater, ensuring that no one is left behind. With a comprehensive approach of education and advocacy, we have developed five modules to address this issue. Our first focus is on menstrual health and hygiene for gender empowerment, acknowledging its impact on all genders. By incorporating a gender lens, we strive to create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. Additionally, our module covers age-appropriate, rights-based, and skill-based education from early childhood to tertiary level, fostering empowerment and reflection in young minds.”

She further added, “In our quest for inclusive access to menstruation-related support, we challenge the prevailing shame, stigma, and misconceptions surrounding this natural process. Collaborating with governments, we ensure equal access to menstrual products and education. Our programs bridge gaps and provide vital support. To comprehend India's current realities, we conducted a comprehensive gap analysis and survey in seven states: Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. This initiative sheds light on the challenges and opportunities within the education system.”

During the event, UNESCO showcased a comprehensive survey and gap analysis report, accompanied by a series of short films that effectively portrayed different dimensions of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management. These films shed light on the diverse experiences and perspectives related to this vital subject matter, spanning across seven states in India. To further break down barriers and eliminate stigma surrounding periods, an empowering "Pride of Period Anthem" was also presented, fostering a more promising and inclusive future for all individuals who menstruate. 


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