Category Archives: Dignity and Social Development

Toilets need water, Indian women suffer under ODF drive

Toilets in households have only increased the drudgery of village women as they have to fetch water from faraway sources for toilet use, writes Amita Bhaduri, Programme Director of the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD), in an article posted on the Indian Water Portal.

Rajasthan is all geared up for the open defecation free (ODF) status well before the national deadline of October 2, 2019. According to the assistant engineer of the nagar parishad, Resha Singh, 4.75 lakh [475 thousand] toilets have been constructed since October 2, 2014 in Alwar district which is about to be declared ODF.

Paari, a 45-year-old woman of Ghevron ki dhaani village in the district got a toilet at her household under this toilet construction drive. She does not have to go far away to find a place for her sanitary needs anymore. She is, however, unhappy and exhausted from the numerous trips to the water source she has to make to get water in the toilet. Her feet are aching from treading the path filled with rocks and thorns without any footwear for protection.

Water access and women's donkey work

Read the full article

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Menstrual Hygiene Webinar Series – WASH United and others

Menstrual Hygiene Webinar Series – WASH United

CLTS studies/resources on CLTS/men & boys, CLTS and children learning brief and more

Below are excerpts from the latest newsletter from IDS Community-Led Total Sanitation:

If you missed our recent webinar, ‘The Other Side of Gender – Sanitation, Men and Boys’, on how men and boys can be more meaningfully engaged in sanitation and hygiene processes to achieve sustainable behaviour change and a new social norms, you can watch it here. The PowerPoint presentation can also be downloaded hereHUB_logo

You can also watch this interesting short interview where Daniel Kitasian Sironka (County Public Health Officer, Narok County Government) talks about his experiences in engaging pastoralist men and boys in community sanitation in Kenya.

Continue reading

Water Currents: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018

Water Currents, May 22 2018: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018

Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), May 28, is an annual global event to raise awareness about the challenges women and girls face due to menstruation and to highlight solutions that address these challenges. mhday2018

MH Day also provides a platform to advocate for making menstrual hygiene management (MHM) a part of local, national, and global policies, as well as programs, projects, and activities across global development sectors.

Read the complete issue.

Dean Spears on what motivated ‘Where India Goes?’

Dean Spears on what motivated ‘Where India Goes?’ Community Led Total Sanitation, March 30, 2018.

In this short video interview Dean Spears (Executive Director, RICE/Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Texas at Austin) talks about the key motivations behind the award-winning book he co-authored with Diane Coffey, ‘Where India Goes: Abandoned toilets, stunted development, and the cost of caste.’ Dean Spears_0

The book addresses a central puzzle: why is open defecation so persistently high in rural India?

And what to do about it?

It presents evidence showing that poor sanitation is an important determinant of the poor health outcomes of India’s children, and that the continuing relevance of the purity, pollution and untouchability norms of the caste system keeps open defecation alive today despite decades of government latrine construction programmes.

The main motivation for writing the book as Dean reflects in the interview, ‘hopefully it will get people involved and excited about trial and error around these solutions to these problems of purity and pollution and latrine pits filling up. Hopefully that can lead to something that really can accelerate the decline of open defecation in rural India.’

Menstrual Pads Can’t Fix Prejudice [feminist opinion piece]

In her opinion piece in the New York Times of 31 March 2018, Chris Bobel criticises the type of menstrual activism that has a narrow focus on “better living through more consumption” of sanitary pads. The core problem surrounding menstruation in her opinion is cultural stigma. Many NGOs and social entrepreneurs promote “a simple solution to what is, in reality, a complex problem”. What is needed, she writes, is “access to a clean, secure toilet”, to treat menstruation as something normal rather than a nuisance, and “culturally sensitive community-based education about the menstrual cycle […] not only girls, but also everyone surrounding them — boys, parents, teachers, religious leaders and health professionals”.

Read the full opinion piece in the New York Times. See also Is Bollywood’s Pad Man movie too good to be true?

Chris Bobel is an associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and past president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. She is the author of the forthcoming The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South.

 

Is Bollywood’s Pad Man movie too good to be true?

Checking the facts and assumptions about menstrual hygiene in developing countries.

Mensrual hygiene painting-crop

Painting by students of the Dr. M.M. den Hertogschool, The Hague, on the importance of menstrual hygiene management and school WASH. Photo: IRC

March 8th was International Women’s Day. Which approach to menstrual hygiene management fits best with this year’s theme urging everyone to #PressforProgress on gender parity? Is it pressing for access to affordable menstrual products or is there more to it?

A few weeks ago, I joined a group of my female colleagues and family to watch “Pad Man”, the Bollywood film inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham.  He is an acclaimed Indian social activist and entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. Muruganantham famously tested sanitary pads on himself, using a bladder with animal blood, while riding his bicycle. “Pad Man” is a feel good, uplifting movie. We left the cinema dancing to the tune of the Pad Man Song.

Too good to be true?

But then, a few days later an IRC colleague from India referred us to a blog that claimed to tell the “real story” about the man, who “shot to fame by selling shame”. The author, Sinu Joseph, is Managing Trustee of the Myrthi Speaks Trust, a Bengaluru-based social activist group working on issues including menstrual health and sanitation. Sinu had initially been involved in distributing Mr. Muruganantham’s sanitary pads until angry mothers complained that she was “trying to get rid of some cheap stuff by dumping it” on their daughters.

Fact check

Sinu counters several of the “facts” mentioned in “Pad Man”, which are also regularly quoted in the media. The first is that Indian women use ash, sand and husks as menstrual absorbents and consequently suffer “from Reproductive Tract Infections for want of a Pad”.  Sinu has found no evidence of this, both from her own experience and the literature. In fact, she says there is no evidence linking the use of menstrual products such as cloth to any menstrual disorder.

Second is the widely quoted statistic that only 12% of Indian women use sanitary napkins. Wrong again, says Sinu: the National Family Health Study of 2015-16 found that the real number is 57.6% , 48.5% in rural, 77.5% in urban areas. Finally, there is no evidence that girls in India drop out of school owing to menstruation and the lack of sanitary napkins. Similar findings emerged from a 2010 study in Nepal, which at the time was not welcomed by the pro-sanitary napkin development lobby.

A developing country problem?

The evidence Sinu refers to, comes from a review of 90 papers, which Myrthi Speaks conducted in 2016. The review not only dispels the “facts” mentioned above but also challenges the assumption that developing countries have a greater prevalence of menstrual disorders than in the West. In fact, the review found that the opposite is true. In developed nations, a higher percentage of adult women and adolescents suffer from heavy bleeding and painful or irregular periods than in developing countries.

Shame

So why has the real-life Pad Man attracted so much uncritical support? Is it because this unlikely hero, an uneducated man, took it upon himself to elevate Indian women from their shameful state? Indeed, most of the women in the Pad Man movie are portrayed as ignorant, led by superstition. In Sinu’s words, “shame has been sold to us in a nice package with celebrity endorsements”.

Glorifying traditional practices?

Sinu has been criticised for promoting the traditional practice of seclusion, which she says provides women who are part of joint families “privacy and comfort during menstruation”. A 2015 blog by Eco Femme, an Indian social enterprise producing washable sanitary pads, said that Sinu neglects those women who experience being excluded as degrading. Harrowing stories about the illegal Nepali practice of Chhaupadi, where girls are forced to spend their periods in cattle sheds, come to mind. The Pad Man film similarly condemns the segregation of women during menstruation.

Interestingly, Arunachalam Muruganantham, Sinu Joseph, Eco Femme, along with many development agencies all claim that they understand women’s needs. Whose view do you support? Or have they all got it wrong?

This blog was originally posted on the IRC website.

Update, 21 March 2018

On 16 March 2018 a TEDxKLETech talk by Sinu Joseph on the “Super science behind Menstrual practices” carried the following warning by TEDx “This talk contains several assertions about Ayurveda that are not supported by studies in gynecological medicine. While some viewers might find advice provided in this talk to be helpful as a complementary approach, please do not look to this talk for medical advice”.