Menstrual Hygiene Management among Specially Abled Adolescent Girls in Rural Odisha of India: A Qualitative Explorative Study


Authors : Dr Shaloni Patnayak; Srinivas Nallala; Kripalini Patel

Volume/Issue : Volume 8 - 2023, Issue 3 - March

Google Scholar : https://bit.ly/3TmGbDi

Scribd : https://bit.ly/3KwNjua

DOI : https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7800664

Abstract : People with any physical or developmental disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and vital categories of the country’s development but at the same time they are found to be neglected the most. The differently abled adolescent girls deserve the same kind of care and concern as any other normal girl receives during menstruation. They face quite a lot of challenges, maybe due to lack of awareness and support systems. Even if support is available, many girls feel awkward to discuss these issues with the people or caregivers. In order to design appropriate educational interventions, research is needed to explore challenges they face during menstruation and what kind of support they need to overcome those challenges to solve their unmet needs. Therefore, a study was conducted to explore - Menstrual hygiene practices among rural girls with physical disabilities; Understand the perceptions and challenges of these girls and their mothers about menstrual hygiene management. A study was carried out in Koraput District using qualitative research methodology. The study participants were adolescent girls of age group from 10 to 17 years with visual/ locomotive/ hearing disabilities and have already attained menarche. The participants were recruited with the support of the local government and non-government agencies. A total of thirty five indepth interviews: 15 girls, 15 mothers, 3 ASHA workers, one zilla parishad chairman and a community head was conducted. The in-depth interviews were conducted using a semi structured interview schedule with open ended questions and relevant probes. The interviews were conducted at the respondent's home after the consent. Analysis has been done by Thematic Framework Method using the Atlas.ti software. The study found that the girls with locomotive disabilities find it difficult to wear the pads because of their bone and joint deformities. Many girls reported their challenges in accessing sanitary pads due to unavailability and sometimes also because of discrimination. Most of thegirls’ perceived menstruation as a curse. They skip and avoid their meals during menstruationas they believe that if they eat less then they may bleed less. And if they bleed less, they do not have to go to the toilets and they don’t need to disturb their family members. According to their mothers and caregivers, this practice has made them weak and lose weight drastically. The menstrual hygiene practices are found to be poor and there are some sociocultural practices and beliefs that have affected their lifestyle despite their disabilities, the girls are being forced to follow these rituals. Nothing much has been done to improve their health condition and address their challenges in adapting to a healthy lifestyle. Health education with specific focus on MHM at school level including explaining the harmful effects of poor menstrual hygiene practices could improve the situation. At the same time, community level health education programs and workshops on MHM should be conducted to reach out to school drop-out as well as to sensitize the mothers/caregivers and general community. This may enable them to discuss their issues and access required services. Further, it is important to have targeted programs on menstruation hygiene management and nutrition with regular follow-ups by the Government or the NGOs (Non-government Organization).

People with any physical or developmental disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and vital categories of the country’s development but at the same time they are found to be neglected the most. The differently abled adolescent girls deserve the same kind of care and concern as any other normal girl receives during menstruation. They face quite a lot of challenges, maybe due to lack of awareness and support systems. Even if support is available, many girls feel awkward to discuss these issues with the people or caregivers. In order to design appropriate educational interventions, research is needed to explore challenges they face during menstruation and what kind of support they need to overcome those challenges to solve their unmet needs. Therefore, a study was conducted to explore - Menstrual hygiene practices among rural girls with physical disabilities; Understand the perceptions and challenges of these girls and their mothers about menstrual hygiene management. A study was carried out in Koraput District using qualitative research methodology. The study participants were adolescent girls of age group from 10 to 17 years with visual/ locomotive/ hearing disabilities and have already attained menarche. The participants were recruited with the support of the local government and non-government agencies. A total of thirty five indepth interviews: 15 girls, 15 mothers, 3 ASHA workers, one zilla parishad chairman and a community head was conducted. The in-depth interviews were conducted using a semi structured interview schedule with open ended questions and relevant probes. The interviews were conducted at the respondent's home after the consent. Analysis has been done by Thematic Framework Method using the Atlas.ti software. The study found that the girls with locomotive disabilities find it difficult to wear the pads because of their bone and joint deformities. Many girls reported their challenges in accessing sanitary pads due to unavailability and sometimes also because of discrimination. Most of thegirls’ perceived menstruation as a curse. They skip and avoid their meals during menstruationas they believe that if they eat less then they may bleed less. And if they bleed less, they do not have to go to the toilets and they don’t need to disturb their family members. According to their mothers and caregivers, this practice has made them weak and lose weight drastically. The menstrual hygiene practices are found to be poor and there are some sociocultural practices and beliefs that have affected their lifestyle despite their disabilities, the girls are being forced to follow these rituals. Nothing much has been done to improve their health condition and address their challenges in adapting to a healthy lifestyle. Health education with specific focus on MHM at school level including explaining the harmful effects of poor menstrual hygiene practices could improve the situation. At the same time, community level health education programs and workshops on MHM should be conducted to reach out to school drop-out as well as to sensitize the mothers/caregivers and general community. This may enable them to discuss their issues and access required services. Further, it is important to have targeted programs on menstruation hygiene management and nutrition with regular follow-ups by the Government or the NGOs (Non-government Organization).

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