Meghan Markle's backing of charity breaking down period taboos in India helping to bring change

Lowenna Waters
Sunday 05 August 2018 16:30
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Picture:(WPA Pool / Getty Images )

Each month, millions of Indian women are shunned and asked to leave their home when they are menstruating, because periods are considered impure and dirty.

In India, during their period, many women are barred from entering temples, touching water, food, kitchen utensils, and even other humans.

According to Dasra, one of India's leading NGOs, 200 million girls are not taught menstrual hygine, and nearly 90 per cent of women are forced to use alternatives to sanitary products, from rags to sand. 63 million women live without access to toilet facilities.

Earlier this week, NBC News reported that since the Duchess of Sussex highlighted her backing of Myna Mahila Foundation, a Mumbai-based charity aiming to "empower women through access to menstrual hygiene products and employment opportunities", things have started to improve.

After their wedding, Prince Harry and Markle asked well wishers not to send gifts, but to instead donate to one of seven of their chosen charities, the Myna Mahila Foundation being one of them.

According to the charity, the Duchess's backing has has helped to bring its cause into the limelight. The charity's founder Suhani Jalota told NBC News:

Menstrual hygiene is a complex topic that involves a lot of issues where women are unable to speak about.

Almost 320 million women don't have access to hygienic products to be used during menstruation in India.

The treatment of women as a dirty entity during their periods [needs to change]. 

Alongside the Myna Mahila Foundation's work, other charities and NGOs such as Binti, which aims to make sure 'every girl has menstrual dignity', and WaterAid, which has signed up 116,000 women and girls to its program, and UNICEF, who over the past two years have facilitated menstrual education classes for over 300,000 girls in seven Maharashtra districts.

Despite making inroads, a lot still needs to change. The treatment of women as dirty during their period is a deeply entrenched cultural belief, which is echoed in the scriptures of Hindu scriptures that declare menstruating women spiritually unclean.

However, because of the work of people like Jalota and Markle, there is hope that things will change and improve.

Speaking about her work to CNN, Jalota hammered home that one of the underlining issues that must be addressed is women's self worth:

If women started to consider themselves to be more important, then slowly it would start conversations around domestic violence, and sexual assault and menstrual hygiene, things that women were currently shying away from.

HT NBC News

More: The Girl Guides now have an End Period Poverty badge

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