‘Period room’: Thane leads the way, makes one public toilet stall suitable for menstrual hygiene

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January 08, 2021 2:58 PM

A first of its kind initiative to be taken in a public toilet located in a slum, the room contains several basic facilities.

menstrual hygiene for women public toilet slumNow, the civic body in Thane is hoping to implement this system in other public toilets as well. (Image: IE/ Deepak Joshi)

‘Period room’ in public toilets: The Thane Municipal Corporation has taken a one-of-its-kind step and introduced a ‘period room’ in a toilet block located in Lokmanya Nagar. The toilet block has been recently painted, on its green and yellow walls stands the bold message that people rarely acknowledge. The message states that menstrual cycle is a natural biological process, which women do not need to be ashamed about. Inside the toilet block, out of 10 stalls in the women’s section, one has been converted into a ‘period room’, according to a report in IE.

A first of its kind initiative to be taken in a public toilet located in a slum, the room contains several basic facilities including a urinal, a holder for toilet roll, soap, jet spray, running water and the most required amenity – the dustbin. Public has been allowed to use the room starting Monday, the report stated.

Now, the civic body in Thane is hoping to implement this system in other public toilets as well. The report quoted Manish Joshi, the Deputy Municipal Commissioner, as saying that the innovation required a monetary input of a mere Rs 45,000, making it a cost-effective idea as well. The initiative would now be replicated across all of the public toilets maintained by the municipal corporation, translating into at least 120 toilets of this kind.

However, the period room has not seen a lot of people utilising its facilities, mostly due to low awareness. The civic body had been aided by NGO Muse Foundation in this initiative, and now, the NGO would be taking up the task of informing the women of the slum about the existence of such a room when they hold one of their regular sessions on menstrual hygiene.

The report quoted NGO founder Nishant Bangera as saying that urinals for women were not designed anywhere and so, they had to install one in the room that was made using a wash basin.

Muse Foundation had conducted a survey in 2019 covering as many as 15 slums across Thane, and spoke to over 1,000 women. In the survey, the NGO found that as many as 67% respondents did not have toilets built in their homes. Another finding of the survey was that many women were forced to dispose of sanitary napkins in any way they found possible due to the lack of dustbins in public toilets.

The report further cited 30-year-old Mamta Vishwakarma as saying that many women in the slum have a small washing area called ‘mohri’ at home where they change the sanitary products. However, women have to make sure to dispose them of without any family member noticing. Now, she is hopeful that the period room would bring a lot of respite, even as she has not used it yet.

A resident of Lokmanya Nagar for the past 25 years, Dipali Nikam, who works as a domestic help, said that the coming up of the period room is demonstrating the tremendous change that the society has undergone. She added that she would talk about the room with all of her friends who have daughters. She also reminisced that during her childhood, they did not have access to sanitary pads, forcing many women to use cloth.

While the NGO would begin informing women soon, 30-year-old toilet block attendant Jyoti Shinde is religiously doing her work, including being more on guard against any theft that could take place in the period room due to the facilities installed there. She further said that there have been a few girls who have gone and seen the facility, and if asked, Shinde tried to inform them about all the benefits of the room to girls as well as some older women. However, she stated that using the room would need a behaviour change among the women of the slum, which happens slowly. She asserted that once women found out that this was a better and more hygienic place to change sanitary pads as compared to their homes, they would start to use it more, bringing about the change.

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