In a country like India where something as natural as a biological process is considered a taboo, it is no less than a revolution to find a community toilet with special facilities to aid women during menstruation. And doing so for women who are less privileged, is a whole new concept. Setting up a great example, the Thane Municipal Corporation in coordination with an NGO has set up a ‘period room’ within a facility of 10 community toilets. Claimed to be first of its kind, the period room is equipped with a urinal, a jet spray, a toilet roll holder, soap dispenser, running water and a dustbin for safe disposal practices.
#India's first Period Room in a community toilet unveiled in #Thane
@FoundationMuse and @TMCaTweetAway jointly have unveiled the country's first one-of-a-kind Period Room in a community #toilet in Lokmanya Nagar. pic.twitter.com/xIoN9KyMnl
— A Period Of Sharing (@POS_Muse) January 6, 2021
As disturbing as it might sound, women’s toilets are generally outnumbered by men’s in a public space. And talking about a slum, this seems like a privilege for women to have a separate space that is hygienic and accessible enough for them to not be ashamed of what their body goes through periodically. The slum in Shanti Nagar locality of Wagle Estate area in Thane, Mumbai has done this bare minimum.
The Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Manish Joshi as reported by The Logical Indian said, “This is a low-cost innovation that took only Rs 45,000. We will replicate this in all our toilets, which would mean a minimum of 120 community toilets”. This looks like a good start. And talking about looks, the walls of the community toilet have been painted in bright colours to promote sanitation and take a small step towards normalising the acceptance of period as a biological process and not something to be disregarded and looked down upon.
The entire idea of creating a safe space for women was brought up to the TMC by the Muse Foundation upon conducting a survey in 2019. The organisation carried out a survey in the 15 slums of Thane and found that nearly 67 per cent of the 1004 women participants did not have a toilet at home. And of those who had one, had to dispose off their sanitary products in any possible way for the lack of a dustbin.
Upon the start, the volunteers with the organisation have said that they will organise engagement sessions with women to help promote the usage to the toilet complex. An attendant has also been appointed whose primary job includes promoting the usage of the facilities, spreading awareness about the benefits of a safe disposal space and also keeping tabs on the things installed in the room.
The picture of India is already painted with poverty and it only becomes grimmer when we add the fact that of 355 million Indian women, only less than 12% have access to sanitary hygiene products. This has been given a term, ‘period poverty’. Not just accessibility but also the stigma around it has caused young girls to drop out of school or remain homebound when they are menstruating. This period shame has an adverse effect on mental health, making it the need of the hour to normalise being vocal about it.