Breaking the Silence 2018 Manipur Campaign Updates:
The campaign aims to raise awareness on the biology of menstruation among girls and women, boys and men and the community so a deeper understanding of our bodies and its natural phenomenon can end the myths, taboos and stigma revolving around menstruation in our society in India and other countries. From 9th May to 31st May 2018, the effort has been to conduct sensitization programs in the hill districts of Noney,Tamenglong and Ukhrul in northeastern state of India, Manipur which has experienced decades of armed conflict, corruption, unemployment, poor health facilities and infrastructure, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and high mortality from these factors. I share the updates from the field as we go on.
10 May 2018 Noney(Longmai), Manipur, India
In spite of heavy rainfall, thunder and storm Noney District Mass Awareness Menstrual Hygiene Management was conducted successfully today at Tengkongjang High Secondary School at Longmai, Noney District in Manipur with attendance of more than 220 adolescent girls and teachers from different schools of Noney. Organized by the global campaign, Breaking the Silence and supported by community and church leaders, the program had Shri Robert Longjam, Sub Divisional Officer of Noney District as the Chief Guest who in his address said,' Menstrual hygiene management is a very important aspect of health not just for girls and women but entire community. The government through the Swachh Bharat Mission( Gramin) has directives to make menstrual hygiene also a focus and funds for IEC have been made available for the purpose of awareness building on the topic.' Shri Adai Dangmei, Chairman, Customary Court(PEI), Longmai presided as the President stressed on the need of involving men in awareness sessions on menstruation because a well balanced society comes from each gender knowing the challenges of the other and extending help. Men should extend help and understanding. Shri Jesse Thaimei, Pastor, Town Baptist Church, Khumji presided as the Guest of Honor and said, 'Urmila Chanam social activist's coming to Noney from Bangalore and conducting awareness in collaboration with Agui Kamei from Noney is an example of Christian value of love.'
The participants were taught the negative impact of feeling ashamed of menstruation and how facilities and support are compromised in this culture of silence. Hygiene practices during mestruation and safe disposal were taught using a wide range of sanitary materials including bio-degradable and eco friendly sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups.
Adolescent girls shared they had never heard of anything else other than the usual pads in stores. Participants were given pamphlets on menstrual hygiene practices the do's and the don'ts and sanitary pads were distributed for free to symbolise hygiene and health. Many students clarified doubts from Urmila during question and answer round. Some of the major questions were if it was right that girls should not take bath or wash their hair during periods as told to them by mother and elders in homes. Few girls wanted to know the nature of diet and what kind of foods to be avoided. Many complained of menstrual cramps and what can be done to get relief. One girl said she was told not to scratch if itchiness prevails because it gives permanent scars and rashes.Itchiness was a regular complaint and participants said she suffered silently without having anyone to escalate the matter to. The program was appreciated by the district administration, church, community, teachers and students.
11th May 2018, Noney(Longmai), Manipur, India
Breaking the Silence, a global campaign to banish myths and taboos around menstruation and educate people on menstruation, hygiene and health undertook a massive field visit in Noney district today and met district government officials, other stakeholders including the community with an aim to discuss what can be done to establish facilities for girls and women. In a meeting with Sub Divisional Officer Shri L. Robert at Deputy Commissioner's Office building development of effective IEC for behaviour change and water supply at house hold level were discussed.
The households in Noney do not receive tap water and there are no significant water reservoirs. Inspite of receiving significant rain the district has little facility to water supply in homes. Women fetch water in buckets and store in tanks spending sizeable amount of time in a day to secure enough water for the family to use. With no water suppy menstrual hygiene is difficult to achieve.
The team visited Namduanhjang( Charoi-2) Government Primary School and found the school has been conducting class from the village community hall and has not even have a building of its own. The small children from class nursery to class 5 numbering close to 55 have to cross the rain water puddles in the huge playground to go to thetoilet built at the other corner which has no running water supply. The only arrangement is a tank which the school management keeps for water requirement of the school. The water and sanitation facility is certainly not user and child friendly.
The visit to the Primary Health Centre was a key meeting with Medical Officer who shared the health profile of girls and women who received medical treatment in the facility and observed that OPD cases were mostly women and major complains centered around cases that come from high physical activity like complaints of back pain, joint pain, knee pain. White discharge is a common medical complaint according to hospital records. The free pads through ASHA and supply of pads for post delivery have not reached Manipur or Noneh though they heard of such programs.
The team visited a village Rangkhung Part - 1 and held a meeting with the village authority, village chieftan 'khulakpa', elderly women and the customary court 'Paikai' to discuss the role of community leaders in menstrual hygiene and the elders expressed their agreement and support. A program at village level will soon be conducted where the elders will take lead faciltared by Breaking the Silemce team in the next few days.
12 May, Noney(Longmai), Manipur, India
Breaking the Silence 2018 Manipur Campaign led interactions in Noney District with all the pharmacies and medical stores in Noney to undertand the scale of consumption of sanitary pads by local girls and women, preferred sanitary pads/brand/type, common complaints of girls and women and observations by pharmacists on hygiene practices or challenges among those who buy medicines.
Those in main market sell anything between 50 to 200 sanitary pads each in a month depending on where the medical store is located and the wide range of pads they offer to buyers.For instance Highway Medical a pharmacy in Noney market sells about 50 sanitary pads a month. 49 year old S.K Aneiliu from Rongmei tribe who runs the store has good knowledge on menstrual hygiene and tells buyers not to wear pads for long period of time, that it is bad for health and hygiene and it should be changed frequently. The pads in her pharmacy include Magnetic Energy Anion Sanitary Napkins, Ammy Sanitary Napkins, New Wonder Wings, Stayfree Advanced and Stayfree Secure. Another pharmacy in the market does a wooping sales of about 200 packets a month and shares that mostly young girls buy and use sanitary pads and most preferred brand is Stayfree due to its low cost.
On further discussion almost all medical store keepers admitted that affordability is the most important criteria for girls or women to buy a sanitary product. It was found that itchiness, skin diseases like fungal infection, irregular periods or low volume blood flow during menstruation were the most common complaints. Candida dusting powder is popular among women. The cause of skin infection is due to not maintaining hygiene and ignorance and in Noney young girls need to be made aware to take bath daily, wash their hands with soap, wash their undergarments daily and sun dry it. A nurse who runs a medical store shared her personal observation that the idea of wearing clean undergarments may not be even there among women and girls here and stressed on the need for teaching hygiene to girls and women.A sensitization program at one of these medical stores for women in Noney is being planned by Breaking the Silence Campaign as the way forward.
Urmila Chanam, Silvia Rimai, Agui Kamei,Ajuanah Kamei,D.Pouhoi,Thanriangliu Gangmei,Philip Kamei,Ringbamliu Riamei formed the Breaking the Silence team.
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Visit our website at http://breakingthesilencereddroplets.com/