From Secrecy to Sustainability: Menstrual Health in Jaipur Schools

A group of young women seat on the floor watching a discussion

 In Jaipur, young women discuss menstrual health with Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) officials and community leaders. The challenges surrounding menstruation for girls in Jaipur are significant, impacting their opportunities and well-being.

(Photo: CFAR Archives/ Amarjeet Kumar Singh)


"Learning about MHH (menstrual health and hygiene) in a supportive environment, devoid of hesitation or embarrassment, has been useful. School-based education serves as a vital tool in breaking taboos and fostering open conversations about reproductive health," remarks Tanu, a member of an adolescent girls' group working to change perceptions around menstruation in her Jaipur school.


In the bustling city of Jaipur, India, girls face a hidden challenge—managing their periods hygienically and with dignity. Stigma and a lack of information often shroud menstruation in secrecy, impacting their education and well-being. However, a wave of change is sweeping through Jaipur's schools. The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) is leading initiatives that promote health and dignity while empowering girls to become advocates for change.


According to UNICEF, 71% of adolescent girls in India are unaware of menstruation until they experience it themselves. This lack of information, coupled with societal taboos, often leads to embarrassment and poor menstrual hygiene practices. CFAR is addressing this issue head-on by implementing comprehensive educational programs in schools.


"School-based education serves as a vital tool in breaking taboos and fostering open conversations about reproductive health."

- Tanu, Child Cabinet Member


Central to CFAR’s strategy is the establishment of Child Cabinets—groups of students trained to audit and advocate for better MHH practices in their schools. Audits conducted by Child Cabinet members revealed significant gaps in WASH infrastructure and knowledge. 


To address these gaps, CFAR collaborates with the Women’s Empowerment Department to institutionalise weekly sessions on climate, gender, and MHH in twenty schools. The impact is tangible, as students like Manish testify to the effectiveness of these sessions in empowering them to support their peers and family members. “As a Child Cabinet member, I received MHH knowledge, which enabled me to support my younger sister. Once, when she felt hesitant to attend school due to menstrual discomfort, I intervened by providing her with sanitary napkins from the pad bank and educating my mother about menstrual hygiene," shared Manish.


A group of schoolgirls sit on the ground under a school building smiling for the camera


A group of adolescent girls participates in a menstrual health session, focusing on access to and disposal of menstrual hygiene products.

(Photo: CFAR Archives)

To ensure that MHH is both empowering and environmentally sustainable, the Multi-stakeholder Alliance in Jaipur, led by CFAR, is leading efforts to promote a climate-resilient MHH. This includes raising awareness about sustainable methods for disposing of sanitary napkins and implementing scientific solutions for menstrual waste disposal in schools, such as deep burial composting pits.


Dr Kalpana Singh, Principal of Mahatma Gandhi Government School Someshwar Puri, sees this as a critical next step for MHH in her school. "Efforts focused on menstrual waste disposal are paramount. They hold the promise of long-lasting benefits for the well-being of young girls."


"Efforts focused on menstrual waste disposal are paramount. They hold the promise of long-lasting benefits for the well-being of young girls."

- Dr Kalpana Singh, Principal of Mahatma Gandhi Government School


Pilots for environmentally sound menstrual waste composting are currently underway in model schools, with plans for widespread implementation across Jaipur.  CFAR’s work exemplifies the transformative power of education and community engagement in improving menstrual hygiene management, paving the way for a future where all students can thrive in a healthy, dignified, and empowered school life.


Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed every year on May 28th to emphasise the importance of menstrual care and raise awareness about the challenges many women face in accessing safe and affordable menstrual products and facilities. The theme for 2024 is "Together for a #PeriodFriendlyWorld," highlighting our collective responsibility to ensure dignified and safe menstruation for all.

Despite being a natural and essential process, access to safe menstrual products, clean water, private sanitation facilities, sexual health education, and a life free of stigma and enforced isolation when menstruating remains a luxury for many, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. 

Nearly 800 million people menstruate daily, including girls, women, and gender-diverse people. However, many struggle to manage their menstruation with dignity and in safe, hygienic conditions. Climate change further exacerbates these challenges, impacting both the availability of period products and the people who need them, and consequently limiting opportunities for education and participation in economic and social activities.

Menstrual hygiene also has significant environmental consequences. Over 12 billion single-use products are discarded annually, and without adequate sanitation facilities and safe disposal mechanisms, these products end up in landfills and polluting waterways. Addressing these issues requires a systems change focus that supports sustainable solutions which consider appropriate resourcing to holistically address the needs of people who menstruate.

Access to safe, hygienic, and sustainable menstrual products and facilities reduces health risks, enhances resilience against climate impacts, and empowers women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals to pursue education and employment and advocate for their needs and interests.

By working together, we can create a world where menstruation is a normal part of life, not a barrier to opportunity or environmental sustainability. Together, we can build a #PeriodFriendly and climate-resilient world for all.


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