Ranchi, May 26, 2021: In the pandemic year, from April 2020 – 2021, Tata Trusts’ Tata Water Mission (TWM), under its Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) programme has significantly raised awareness, fostered conversations about menstruation, by successfully training 3,308 Girls, 7,737 Women, and 309 Men and Boys in Jharkhand.
The MHM programme, with its Social Behavior Change Communications (SBCC) campaign, focused on a holistic approach towards empowering women by building a conversation around menstruation, and taking it further to schools and at the community level, thus, destigmatising this perfectly natural biological process. To scale-up the achievements of the campaign, the mission organised sensitisation workshops and trainings for frontline healthcare and Anganwadi workers.
This was following a baseline survey conducted in 2016 by Dasra in rural India that revealed 52% women were entirely unaware of menstruation until their menarche, while 70% mothers considered it ‘dirty’, perpetuating a culture of silence regarding the subject. Furthermore, as per National Family Health Survey 2015-16, only 39.4 % of women in rural Jharkhand had access to hygienic methods of protection to tackle menstruation. The onset of COVID-19 has presented new set of challenges for women and girls on this front. However, regardless of the novel challenges brought about by the pandemic, Tata Trusts’ TWM continued to shoulder the responsibility of demystifying myths around menstruation.
Leveraging the MHM value chain, the programme, with its 360-degree approach, continues to unfold its four integral pillars in Jharkhand and 7 other Indian states in the following manner:
Pillar 1: Intervention with Women & Adolescent Girls through schools and community interventions
In this, the Community Resource Persons— Sakhis (field staff)—mobilise women and girls of the communities and disseminate knowledge on reproductive system, sanitary and menstrual products along with its pros and cons, PMS and Menopause, nutrition essentials, Myths and taboos associated with menstruation etc. This ensures that, though women know menstruation exists, they understand why menstruation occurs and, hence, are encouraged to make informed decisions. A lot of emphasis is laid on having conversations about menstruation and to break the silence associated with it, which is key in practicing correct hygiene practices with dignity.
To ensure correct and key information on awareness, use, and hygiene is delivered and improved practices are sustained by the beneficiaries, the TWM has developed the following:
- ‘Samajhdar’ Campaign - 9 MHM Digitised Videos – By using elements of behavioral science to trigger positive behavior among communities, ‘Samajhdar’ characters were developed to help the beneficiaries connect with the characters on an emotional level, which helps reinforce and retain key learnings.
- Creation of a CRP Handbook – To aid the facilitator with participatory tools during session delivery and ensure that learning process becomes interesting and key Information is not missed out.
- Beneficiary Handbook - The booklet is an informative tool designed in the form of a comic strip that enables beneficiaries understand menstruation and its related information in a fun way. The illustrations are colorful to grab attention, and the story is simple yet relatable. It also ensures that key learnings are not forgotten and there is a point of reference to information and knowledge shared during the session.
Pillar 2: Intervention with Males (Adolescent Boys and Couple Counselling)
Adolescent boys and males are an important stakeholder for ensuring that a woman/ girl can practice menstruation with dignity. Correct scientific knowledge and know-how on extending required support needs to be given to them, so that they can provide the required supportive socio-cultural environment for women to make informed decisions and manage their menstruation with dignity. Through this module, an attempt was made to break the barriers of communication and taboo regarding menstruation among adolescent boys.
Couples’ counseling brings women and their husbands together, helping them initiate conversation on this tabooed subject. This is the key to ensure that a woman can make informed choices with her husband’s/ father’s support in our patriarchal society. Men are made aware of various health-seeking practices and provide a supportive socio-cultural environment for the women in their homes.
Pillar 3: Setting up Sustainable Supply Chain Mechanisms for Eco-friendly products
Women often use cloth & sanitary napkins. However, most women and girls are unaware of the range of products available in the market today. This module emphasised on the different types of products available in the market with the pros and cons of each, empowering women to make informed decisions. A supply chain involving local Self Help Groups (SHGs) and federations was also developed, which continues to ensure access to good quality eco-friendly menstrual absorbents in communities.
To address the issues of access, availability, affordability, and safe and hygienic use during the pandemic the MHM Team has been working on the following:
- How to stich your own Cloth Pads Workshops - The programme empowers & encourages women with the skills to stitch their own cloth pads at home through the cloth pad stitching workshops.
- DIY Cloth Pad Stitching Video – To widen the reach during pandemic and to make women self-reliant and capable of managing their menstruation with safety and dignity, TWM team helped create an animated video on ‘How to stich your own Cloth Pad.’ The teams now circulate these among their beneficiaries through WhatsApp and other social media channels.
- Cloth Pad Production Units – The thought behind initiating cloth pad production is to make women self-reliant for their needs during menstruation. Currently units are in the planning phase in Assam, Maharashtra (Nashik, Nandurbar & Amravati) & Gujarat.
Pillar 4: Safe Disposal of Sanitary Waste
The programme has been promoting only reusable products with accurate disposal techniques to ensure safe disposal of the used absorbents. For beneficiaries, using non-reusable, disposable products, the use of 1029 Local Matka Incinerators are being promoted with great success across all geographies. Under this programme, R&D efforts for innovative disposal technologies is also being emphasised.
The Trusts efforts are recognised by the district and state administration and learnings and knowledge will be used for larger benefit of communities in other parts of the state too.
With these pillars, the Tata Water Mission is helping in — crushing menstrual inequity; bringing the menstruation out of the shackles of taboos and stigma while building an India where women can undergo menstruation with safety and dignity.
Since inception in 1892, Tata Trusts, India’s oldest philanthropic organisation, has played a pioneering role in bringing about an enduring difference in the lives of the communities it serves. Guided by the principles and the vision of proactive philanthropy of the Founder, Jamsetji Tata, the Trusts’ purpose is to catalyse development in the areas of health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihood, digital transformation, migration and urban habitat, social justice and inclusion, environment and energy, skill development, sports, and arts and culture. The Trusts’ programmes, achieved through direct implementation, partnerships and grant making, are marked by innovations, relevant to the country. For more information, please visit