Leave No One Behind: an MHM toolkit for women and girls with visual and hearing impairments

Date: 7th March 2018

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By Kamini Prakash, Technical Officer, Equality and Non-Discrimination, India Support Unit, New Delhi

  • Women are not a homogenous category. Blind and deaf women also menstruate and need access to information and basic services so they can manage their monthly period safely and with dignity.
  • The tactile book and video in Indian sign language can be used to break the silence on menstruation and help these groups to learn about menstruation.
  • Thanks to effective advocacy, there are more educational and practical tools on menstrual hygiene management. However, these particular tools fill a gap and have generated widespread interest among development agencies and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in India, which released the tactile (perceptible to touch) book on 22 February at a national consultation hosted by the Ministry.

The Minister launches the tactile book (Photo credit: WSSCC)

On 22 February, Union Cabinet Minister Ms. Uma Bharati and Secretary Mr. Parameswaran Parameswaran Iyer, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, released a tactile book on Menstrual Hygiene Management developed by WSSCC. The release took place during a National Consultation on Solid and Liquid Resource Management in Delhi. Minister of State Mr. Ahulwalia and Joint Secretary, Ms .V. Radha were also present at the occasion.

Vinod Mishra takes the Minister through the tactile book (Photo credit: WSSCC)

Women and girls face a huge challenge every month when they try to manage their period in an environment of secrecy. The culture of silence and shame associated with menstruation make women vulnerable to urinary and reproductive tract infections, stress and anxiety, and even gender-based violence.

Imagine how much more challenging this reality is for a young blind or deaf girl in a remote village confronting her first period.  She faces even greater trauma and isolation as she struggles for information and basic services.

At the WSSCC Sanitation Action Summit 2016, visually impaired girls talked about these struggles.  Here is what they said:

  • Since there are no dustbins or other disposal facilities, we are dependent on our relatives to throw away used pads
  • We are often pressured by our families to remove our uterus so we stop menstruating
  • When there are no toilets we go out to change our sanitary materials. This is unsafe as we cannot see stray animals or other hazards. 

As We Grow Up: A Tactile Book on Menstrual Hygiene Management (with a facilitators manual) (Photo credit: WSSCC)

In response to this need, WSSCC designed, tested and produced a tool kit in Hindi and English on Menstrual Hygiene Management for visually impaired and hearing-impaired women and girls.   The tools in this kit help these women to visualize and understand their bodies, the physical changes during puberty, the biology behind menstruation and how to manage their monthly period with pride and dignity. The toolkit includes:

An electronic and an audio version of the tactile book will also be available for persons who cannot read braille. These materials have been designed in consultation with blind and deaf women and girls together with the Centre of Excellence in Tactile Graphics (CoETG) – IIT, Delhi, Saksham Trust and Noida Deaf Society.

The team at the exhibition stall. (Photo credit: WSSCC)

This tool kit is an important example of how we can make our trainings more inclusive and reach out to groups and individuals normally left behind.  We hope these tools will be used widely to break the silence around periods and to ensure that excluded communities, such as persons with disabilities, participate fully in making SDG 6 a reality.

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