Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Toilets vs costume malfunction

I was reading an article by Kalpana Sharma in "The Hindu" recently.

What I was reading really shook me.

Here are the excerpts

"...Studies have documented how women choose to eat less and specific times to avoid having to go to the toilet during daylight hours. In the absence of toilets, they have to use fields and this they can do after dark or early in the morning. As a result, they are forced to control their intake of food resulting in many forms of under-nutrition andanaemia."

"For young girls, the problem is even more acute, particularly after they cross puberty. Women and young girls also limit the amount of water they drink for the same reasons".

The article starts with an observation on Gujarat; hence I assumed that this problem is only in the remote and tribal areas of West India. I brought up this topic for discussion with our Eastside Story Girls' team and to my utter surprise one of the girl remarked...."Sir, we are very familiar with this. Not that we can't afford the food, our fathers do definitely earn that much. But there is no safe and decent toilet in our school. So we don't drink water and eat very little".

I was quite taken aback. I brought up this issue to the head of the district's public health programme and he behaved as if all this was news to him. May be he never knew about this.

Well... our papers are busy having page 3 in all pages and news channels are busy discussing 'costume-malfunction' on prime time. More the justification for "Eastside Story" and the need to hear from children.

Sriram V Ayer

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