*Picture shows state-wide campaign jointly launched in Ranchi by the state government of Jharkhand and UNICEF, Jharkhand.

The Government of Jharkhand has announced a month-long digital awareness campaign on Thursday to break the silence around menstrual hygiene to promote better health for girls and women.

Billed as “Chuppi Toro, Swasth Raho” (Break the Silence, Stay Healthy), the campaign will use digital media to ensure public awareness while adhering to COVID-19 social distancing norms.

May 28 is marked as Menstrual Hygiene Day globally to bring together non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to promote good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for all women and girls. It aims to break the silence, build awareness and combat taboos and negative social norms around MHM by engaging decision-makers, influencers and the community at large too.

Initiated by the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department (DWSD) with the support of UNICEF, the campaign will use TV, online conferencing, the media and digital platforms such as WhatsApp to ensure the campaign reaches a wide audience between 28 May and 27 June, 2020.

Mithilesh Thakur, Jharkhand’s Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation, said that the disruption caused by the pandemic should not prevent access to and usage of menstrual hygiene products.

“The objective of the campaign is to encourage women and girls to speak up about menstruation, discuss the risks of improper menstrual hygiene and the safe disposal of the used sanitary product. While COVID-19 has affected our ability to organize meetings and campaigns, we can use digital media and mass media to ensure that the message for improved Menstrual Hygiene can reach the widest possible audience.

The “Chuppi Toro, Swasth Raho” campaign will try to ensure that women and girls across Jharkhand speak up about menstrual hygiene and encourage healthier, safer practices. The DWSD is planning to provide free of cost sanitary napkins to school going girls and women in villages. When implemented, it would be great success in ensuring better menstrual hygiene among girls and women in the state.”

The month-long initiative will also be supported by the departments of Health, Education, Panchayati Raj, Women and Child Development as well as Rural Development. Prashant Kumar, Secretary, DWSD, said that a convergent, multi-pronged approach would be deployed to make the initiative a success.

“We all have to work together for the success of this campaign. Our plan is to work in phases to ensure better MH management across the state. Firstly, we will build awareness of through virtual training, from the districts down to the panchayats. Secondly, we will ensure the dissemination of information to the field workers and community using digital platforms. Thirdly, we will pursue innovations and sustainable mechanisms for the production, distribution and use of sanitary napkins at the grassroots level.”

Prasanta Dash, Chief, UNICEF Jharkhand, stressed on the very positive role played by online mediums in building awareness in an extended period of school and closures and social distancing.

“The inability to hold large trainings and classroom sessions have been a big blow dealt by the pandemic. However, thousands of health personnel and volunteers have been trained online on combating the pandemic. Digital classrooms and televised learning content have helped students and their families cope with school closures. I also believe that a coordinated effort by key departments will ensure greater success for the campaign. I urge departments across sectors, especially Health, Education Rural Development and DWSD to come together for the cause of better menstrual hygiene management.”

According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-16), four out of 10 females in Jharkhand aged between 15-49 years use a hygienic menstrual absorbent during their periods. Access to and use of better menstrual hygiene products and practices has a significant positive impact on health, educational status and the empowerment of women and girls. 

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