Menstrual Hygiene Management in Poor Adolescent Girls: A Comparative Cross-Sectional Case Study in The Slums of Chennai and Delhi
Shruthi Ramesh, Sumirtha Gandhi & Varsha Reddy
BASE University Working Paper Series: 06/2021
Many women, especially in Low and Middle Income Countries face significant barriers to managing their menstrual cycles safely and easily. Only 12 percent of India’s menstruating women use sanitary napkins while the others resort to unsafe alternatives. This can drastically affect their reproductive health and educational status. Inadequate knowledge and access along with stigma and sensitivity surrounding menstruation in India impede women from actively reaching out to improve their menstrual practices. In this paper we seek to identify the cultural, psychological and economic barriers faced by poor adolescent women to practicing good menstrual hygiene. We undertook a comparative analysis of the factors affecting Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in the slums of Delhi and Chennai. A total of 142 and 163 girls from Chennai and Delhi respectively, belonging to the age group of 11-20 were interviewed through a self-administered questionnaire. Additionally, Focussed Group Discussions were conducted amongst girls and their mothers. Main empirical analysis was conducted using a regression model. To construct indices for knowledge, cultural restrictions and empowerment related information, we adopted principal component analysis. Our findings revealed that knowledge (coef: 1.186), cultural restrictions (coef: 0.940) and empowerment (coef: 1.033) indices exerted positive and significant impacts on MHM. Socio-economic indicators, like religion, mother’s education, access to toilets and family size exerted significant influence on MHM. Qualitative findings supported these claims, information discerned via FGDs elucidated that cultural and social beliefs pertaining to menstruation varied greatly amongst the residents of Delhi and Chennai. Hence, policies undertaken for metropolitan cities in general may not work in all settings. Policy initiatives must be made to eradicate the challenges pertaining to obtaining absorbent materials, subsidies on sanitary napkins must be provided, and efficient information channels need to be established for their effective delivery.