The Nirmal Bharat Yatra Stop 2 Teaching the teachers at Indore Madhya Pradesh

India Water Portal
Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 10:30

Teachers play a major role in the development of our society. They inspire, motivate and pass on knowledge. To gain knowledge they go for various trainings. It’s very difficult to find teachers who know that there is a place for tradition but there is also a place for new ways, new ideas, new systems, and new approaches. But the teachers in Indore proved us wrong. They were the complete opposite to our expectations. They were open and willing to listen to others' ideas.

They were like a breath of fresh air. All this took place in the teacher training held by the Nirmal Bharat Yatra for Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).Such a topic is never spoken about in public leave alone schools . Only if there is awareness created among school children, both boys and girls will there be a possibility of development. The whole process starts with first educating the teachers, who then can enlighten parents as well as young boys and girls. It is very important to educate men about it as they feel that because it is of no use to them, it’s perfectly normal being unaware.

Today was one such day which gave us the opportunity to open discussions and create awareness. The training conducted by Maria Fernandes, a consultant with WSSCC touched the topic in a very subtle but effective manner. She started out by asking three basic questions.

1. What are the problems that girls face in schools during their menstrual cycle?

2. What are the problems faced by the teachers?

3. What are the problems faced by male teachers when a girl talks to them about their menstrual cycle?

At first, all the teachers present in the room where taken a back with the questions. They found it strange but with motivation from Maria, they started answering the questions.

The few of the problems faced by the girls in their schools were that there was a lack of facilities like no proper toilets , non availability of clean water and if all that was there then there was no way of disposing them. Also if one of the girls was going through the period, then she would be teased to the extent that she would run back home. A teacher was saying that one of student’s with all the teasing went in to depression and she was about to commit suicide.

The problems faced by the teachers were that because in their homes they were not allowed to talk about it, even in school they never spoke about it.

The answer that came in chorus was the last question. Many of them believe that men are generally ignorant and din’t have proper knowledge about the topic, hence they hesitate to talk about it and normally send the girl home.

One more common problem which was of concern was that parents tend to object on such topics. They think that schools are giving them sex education. To that Maria explained how teachers are an important medium between children and their parents and they could talk to parents in the Parent Teacher Meet where they could talk to them about basic hygiene and then build up on talking about menstrual hygiene. Everybody seemed thrilled with the suggestion and quickly scribbled the idea on their notepad.


teachers scribbling on their notepads

Teachers scribbling on their notepads

One of the male teachers was curious to know about the kind of care a girl should take during this period. So Maria very happily answered by saying that there was three things that needed to be looked into.

1. One’s cleanliness – The girl during this period should keep herself clean by taking a bath daily, cleaning her genital parts regularly and also changing her pad every 4-6 hours a day.

2. What is to be used- Generally girls use old dirty pieces of cloth that is lying around in the house which is completely wrong as it is dangerous to the health. If possible, they should use sanitary napkins but if for some reason not possible then use cloth which is washed, then dried in the sun and if they are re-using it then repeat the same process. While using cloth, don’t use anything to make it like a pad. Everyone was confused, and then Maria narrated a story which was alarming.

A girl from Dindori district, when she got period, she took straws that she normally used to make the cloth she used more absorbent and there was no electricity therefore she didn’t notice that there was an insect in that straws. The same insect enters to vagina and through vagina to uterus. Even after completing her menstrual days she was suffering stomach ache but she ignored. Next month she didn’t get period and her stomach ache increased but her mother still didn’t take her to the doctor because he was a male doctor.

Soon the pain was unbearable. Finally her mother took her to doctor but doctor said it is too late and insect have infected the uterus very badly so there is no other option but to remove uterus. Thus 19 yrs old girl had to operated and deprived from motherhood. The moral of the story being that a simple piece of a clean cloth is enough and one should not experiment with substitutes to make it more absorbent. Everyone with a stunned look nodded their heads.

3. Disposal- Properly using sanitary napkins or cloth is not the only important step. Disposing them properly is very important. There are only two ways about it. If one uses cloth then should wash it with soap then dry it and re-use and if they are disposing a sanitary napkin, then wash the pad under cold water first which will help in removing the dirt and then hot water to kill the germs. After that burn it or burry it . It is important to wash it because it was found that the sanitary pads were found in the stomach’s of cows and dog.

She then asked them if the schools were lacking any facilities and to that everybody had an answer. A lot of them said that some of the schools don’t have proper toilets and for more a month there was no water in the toilet. They also mentioned that in a few schools near the city, Whisper had come to their schools and explained to them about menstruation and also gave them a kit which included a napkin, soap, dettol and a few sanitary pads. But they only did this for a year or two.

Maria ended by asking for suggestions regarding the facilities each school should have. Some of the answers included having toilets for girls based on the boys-girls ratio, sufficient amount of water, availability of sanitary napkins on-campus. They also suggested that a fund should be created in aid of menstrual hygiene management where proper facilities are available for girls going through their period. They ended by saying that girls who have started their menstrual cycle or are going to get it should be assembled together every month and have an open discussion about it. If they still feel uncomfortable talking about it, then they should ask them to put their questions in a drop box and then discuss the questions.

The teachers that came for the training were open to learn about the topic in hand .It was incredible to see the male teachers taking part in the discussions and were carefully listening to all the details given to them. Teachers are wonderful role models because they are the window through which many children see their future and if they are open to change, then are work is half done.

By Aneesha Menon, Fellow , India Water Portal, Arghyam
For full coverage by India Water Portal of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, click here.