Large percentage of women in J&K still using traditional cloth for menstrual protection


Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, May 27 : A large percentage of women in Jammu and Kashmir continue to use traditional cloth for menstrual protection, which can lead to various infections and potentially result in infertility, health professionals said.

They stressed the importance of menstrual hygiene and encouraged women to adopt sanitary pads to prevent these health issues.

Dr Tabasum Shahnaz, Block Medical Officer of Zainapora, speaking with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), said that although the number of women using cloth instead of sanitary pads during their menstrual cycle is decreasing, many still continue with it. She said maintaining menstrual hygiene is crucial in preventing infections such as urinary tract infections and reproductive tract infections, which can have severe health consequences.

“Proper hygiene practices, including the regular changing of menstrual products and maintaining cleanliness, are essential to mitigate these risks,” Dr Shahnaz explained. She advised young girls not to feel ashamed when purchasing sanitary pads, as using them can help avoid infections that may lead to infertility.

Dr Barjasta Bahar, a gynaecologist at the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK), said that while affordability is not a major issue for most women, the lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene is. “Many women do not understand the health risks associated with unhygienic menstrual practices,” she said.

Dr Bahar said there is a need for open discussions and education about menstruation to break down stigma and empower women to manage their periods with dignity and confidence.

“Good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is fundamental for enabling women, girls, and other menstruators to reach their full potential,” Dr Barjasta added. She warned that poor menstrual hygiene can lead to itching, rashes, bad odour, and serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and toxic shock syndrome.

Doctors said that even among those using sanitary pads, there is a lack of understanding about their proper use. Wearing one pad for too long can cause rashes and vaginal yeast infections, along with bad odour, they said.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), nearly 60% of women in Jammu and Kashmir still use cloth for menstrual protection. The survey (2019-2021) revealed that only 50.5% of women aged 15-24 use sanitary napkins, a slight increase from 48.8% in NFHS-4 (2015-2016).

To address this issue, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare introduced a scheme promoting menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls aged 10-19 in rural areas. The scheme provides sanitary napkin packs branded as “Freedays” to encourage better menstrual hygiene practices—(KNO)


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