From Apathy to Empathy: How To Involve Men in Menstrual Health

From Apathy to Empathy: How To Involve Men in Menstrual Health

Whether asked seriously or in jest, questions like these are commonly posed to women. It points to the culture of stereotyping women as emotional and quick tempered during their menstrual cycle. One of the ways to dismantle these prejudiced notions is changing the way we, as a society, treat conversations around menstruation.

It is not surprising that many men, in both urban and rural India, are unaware about menstruation and Menstrual Health Management (MHM). More often than not, men’s understanding about periods is inconsistent as they pick up pieces of information from family, friends or partners.

If menstruation is treated as a collective issue for everyone and not just a ‘women’s domain,’ it will help in transforming society for the better. First of all, the myths and superstitions regarding periods negatively impact the lives of women as millions of girls are forced to leave school after menarche, not allowed to touch food in the kitchen or made to sleep in a separate room or hut.

According to a study about girls’ awareness about menstruation, only 48% were aware about it before their first period. This glaring ignorance about menstruation across all genders translates into dismal MHM practices and facilities in India.

Secondly, many women, especially in rural areas, do not have the ability to make informed choices about MHM as they use unsafe materials like scraps of cloth, which are not washed properly and dried indoors.

If both girls and boys are educated about MHM in schools, it will help to sensitise them about menstruation. It can empower girls to feel self-confident and more comfortable in their own bodies.

Moreover, men who involve themselves through NGO’s or businesses in MHM find themselves being criticised and denounced by society which can be hugely discouraging to them. It is important to normalise dialogue around menstruation for this very reason.

The advancement of a civilisation is measured by how it treats its women. Given that in many countries, including our own, most positions of power and privilege are occupied by men – in fact, 95% of CEOs and heads of state (key policymakers) are men – it is necessary to involve them in solving MHM issues. For instance, removing the pink tax on menstrual products, providing free menstrual napkins to those who cannot afford them and improving sanitation facilities in public zones.

The tools which can help to eradicate the stigma and shame around menstruation are education and the power of empathy. These days, it is common to see “if men had periods” posts and videos on the internet where men would perhaps glorify menstruation as a show of their strength and not weakness. Menstruation is a normal biological process for women and should never hinder their self-development.

Boys and men can play an extremely household and community-level menstrual hygiene and sanitation programmes. If true gender equality is to be brought about in India, each and every individual should be given a fair chance and opportunity at succeeding in their lives – beginning with education and health.