Empowering women in India together with UNICEF
Since the start of its operations in India in 2007, Lindström has collaborated with UNICEF to ensure clean water and sanitation for all in the country. Ensuring clean water is also a gender equality topic in the country, where menstruation can still limit a girl’s participation in daily life and thereby limits the future possibilities unreasonably.
In many parts of India, girls are restricted, for example, to socialize with their friends, sleep on their beds, go to school or cook during their periods. Once a month for five days this is the reality for many women in India. This all results from a common belief that the blood released during menstruation is impure and everyday activities are restricted as a result. The taboo of menstruation also means that many girls aren’t learning about menstrual hygiene at home or in school. Apart from being unhealthy and unfair, these restrictions reinforce gender inequity and exclusion – further disempowering women and girls.
Enabling women to join the workforce
UNICEF study found that Jharkhand in India is one of the areas where misconceptions about menstruation are widespread. The majority of the girls living in the area reported that their mothers imposed restrictions on them when having periods. They also lacked information on the importance of washing menstrual cloths.
Luckily, these beliefs and behaviors are starting to change. Believe it or not, this change starts by training women to build and construct toilets. UNICEF has been helping the state to become open defecation free and trained already 55,000 female toilet builders. Most of these women belonged to the marginalized communities, and now when they are participating in economic activities through toilet construction, they are empowered to sustain their families without being dependents. Now, these empowered women are using their economic freedom to lift up the next generation of girls.
After women are trained to toilet constructors, some of them see important to raise awareness on menstrual health. They have weekly discussions in their societies, and they train parents in the community about using absorbents and sanitary clothes. They also work to bust myths about periods and encourage girls to go to schools and work, even while having periods.