Thane Rolls Out Low‑Cost Public Toilet Upgrade Aimed at Improving Menstrual Hygiene
The Thane Municipal Corporation has set up a ‘period room’ in the women’s communal toilet in the small locality of Lokmanya Nagar in Thane city. This room for menstrual hygiene is the first of its kind in a public toilet in a slum. At a cost of only Rs. 45,000, the toilet upgrade offers a low-cost model that cities all over the country could replicate, allowing access to and promotion of menstrual hygiene at a large, cost-effective scale.
This ‘period room’ has all the essentials needed for basic hygiene and dignity, which are commonly absent from public toilets in the country: a jet-spray, a toilet roll holder, soap, hooks to hang clothes, running water, and a dustbin. The toilet also has a urinal designed for women fashioned out of a washbasin.
In light of this, calling the toilet a ‘period room’ is a branding exercise — but one that is needed to challenge menstrual stigma. Historically, periods have been a taboo in Indian and South Asian families, treated as something women should go through hidden and alone. Traditionally, ‘period rooms’ or ‘menstrual huts’ have been small, dark enclosures women are banished to, during menstruation, and often lacked proper beds, electricity, and hygienic facilities.
By contrast, Thane’s period room has a list of essential information regarding hygiene in multiple languages, including the local language of Marathi. And the building is brightly painted, with murals discussing hygiene and sanitation.
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The period room was built after Muse Foundation, an NGO that assisted the municipal corporation in building the toilets, surveyed the 15 slums of Thane in 2019. After surveying about 1,000 people, the NGO found that 67% of the women it talked to did not have a toilet at home. Additionally, around 56% of female school students had no access to clean toilets at their institutions, and around 18% of women who work did not have access to a clean toilet at their workplace. The survey revealed that the women, at most, had a small washing area in their homes which they used discreetly to change their sanitary products.
However, due to the lack of awareness and social stigma, not many have started using the period room yet. The NGO is planning to conduct menstrual hygiene sessions to inform residents about the toilet and destigmatize menstrual health. “A few girls have come and seen it,” Jyoti Shinde, the attendant of the toilet block, told The Indian Express. “I try and tell them about its benefits if they ask. I told a few other women too.”
Despite the slow uptake, the corporation says it plans to replicate the period room in other community toilets around the city soon.