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Campaign 2014-10-16

Need to break taboos related to menstrual health: Mary Kom

Celebrity boxer MC Mary Kom joins ‘The Taj Must Smile’ campaign, to urge Indian women to break the taboos related to maternal and menstrual health.

Need to break taboos related to menstrual health: Mary Kom

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Supporting ‘The Taj Must Smile’ campaign, a national movement for behaviour change to accomplish maternal and child health goals in India, Olympic medallist boxer MC Mary Kom is urging Indian women to bring about behaviour change in them and educate their daughters to break the taboos related to maternal and menstrual health.

To mark the occasion of International Day for Rural Women in New Delhi, Mary Kom said, “I have personally faced similar issues. I have seen my acquaintance living isolated, who couldn't even see-off their departed near and dear ones or join the funeral ceremonies because they were having their periods. They cannot enter kitchen, touch utensils and avoid interaction with family and friends. What an embarrassment! Can we continue to be unfair to these girls by making them feel that menstruation is a problem?”

She further added, “We should educate them on how they can keep themselves healthy and free of infection during period and that they should use measures like sanitary napkins or a clean cloth that needs to be changed every 4-6 hours. I urge that all the girls in India are told that it is okay to have periods and it is not a burden.”

India has for long been burdened by the high maternal mortality rates (MMR) and there is a long way to go before the country meets its Millenium Development Goals (MDG 5) target. The MMR is higher in the rural areas because of certain age old and unhealthy practices prevalent in these areas during menstruation and pregnancy.

A report issued by ‘The Taj Must Smile’ campaign unveils that over 23 per cent of girls in India drop out of schools due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation measures, adding in the stress and psychological burden she is anyway facing because she thinks that menstruation is a problem. Girls in the rural areas are amongst the most unaware communities, still using haydust, grass, mud and other things during menstruation, which are unhealthy and can cause infection,  sometimes even leads to death.

Meanwhile, commenting on the poor level of awareness, myths and taboos associated with menstrual health, Mary Kom stated, “Women in the rural areas do not even know that the government provides for these facilities free of cost under the government’s Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK), and it is our duty to educate them about it.”

The Free Entitlements under JSSK includes free and cashless delivery, free c-section, free treatment of sick-new-born up to 30 days, exemption from user charges, free drugs and consumables, free diagnostics, free diet during stay in the health institutions – 3 days in case of normal delivery and 7 days in case of caesarean case, free provision of blood, free transport from home to health institutions, free transport between facilities in case of referral as also drop back from institutions to home after 48 hours stay.

Apart from this, the government also offers free entitlements for sick newborns till 30 days after birth, similarly include free treatment, free drugs and consumables, free diagnostics, free provision of blood, exemption from user charges, free transport from home to health institutions, free transport between facilities in case of referral and free drop Back from Institutions to home.

Over 5 lakh women worldwide die annually from complications during childbirth, which can be largely attributed to lack of awareness, proper nutrition, lack of proper post-natal care and the large number of unassisted childbirths that happen at home.

Taj Must Smile is a national movement and supported and sponsored by  corporates, civil society, influencers, academia, key opinion leaders, celebrities and media, all coming together to make every Indian aware of preventive health behaviours, which can lead to healthier mothers, healthier children and a healthier nation.

The campaign aims to touch the lives of every Indian through the Taj Mahal, a symbol of eternal love of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz. It is believed that Mumtaz died in the year 1831 while giving birth to their child due to lack of healthcare advances and information. Today, 400 years later, the TajMahal reminds us of the 71,000 mothers and the 1.2 million children under the age of 5 who die every year due to easily preventable birth related complications.

 Although healthcare facilities in India have improved by leaps and bounds, the Taj still remains a symbol of grief and the only way to make the Taj Smile is to reach out to people with health messages and encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

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