Menstruation is a natural, physiological function. However, a lot of women grow up being ashamed of their bodies. A large section of society considers women to be ‘dirty’ or ‘impure’ when they menstruate.
In India, about 23% of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating. A large percentage of women are forced to use old cloth, newspapers and even mud during menstruation. Sanitary pads are expensive and about 70% of women cannot afford them.
Here, students face a great number of difficulties when it comes to sanitation and hygiene. In terms of access to and maintenance of basic standards of cleanliness, toilets in many Indian colleges and universities fail to meet even the bare minimum cleanliness standards. In such a situation, if you happen to be a menstruating woman, it’s twice as hard just to get through the day.
Firstly, the social stigma attached to menstruation already makes it difficult to talk about. Secondly, schools and colleges are often ill-equipped to deal with the needs of menstruating students. There are constant cramps that most women go through during their period. Then there is the unavailability of napkins inside the college campus. Even if there are vending machines, they stop working due to poor maintenance or give out low-quality napkins, which is not useful for heavy flow. This is the reason why most female students end up missing out on classes as they find schools or colleges difficult to attend during their period.
Every woman has a right to healthcare and basic sanitation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-hyped flagship “Swachh Bharat” and “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” campaigns stand futile if women and young girls are deprived of basic healthcare amenities even in government run educational institutions.
According to a directive issued by National Commission for Women (NCW) in September 2014, it had mandated all schools and colleges, whether government aided or private to install vending machines for sanitary pads in order to safeguard the health of female students. It is imperative for all the schools and colleges to implement the directives of NCW.
The Student Federation of India (SFI) has successfully led a state wide campaign in Kerala demanding installation of sanitary pad vending machines in all educational institutions. After this intensive and spirited campaign across the state, the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinnarayi Vijayan has announced ‘She Pad‘ scheme at an estimated cost of ₹30 crore with the aim of providing sanitary napkins for girl students in all government schools and colleges to ensure menstrual hygiene.
Taking this cause further, on July 11 of this year, SFI took up #BleedWithoutFear-#BleedWithoutTax campaign across the country against the insensitive taxation on sanitary pads in the form of GST. Thousands of girls sent sanitary pads to Arun Jaitley, with a message written on it against the taxation and to provide girls in their adolescent age who are below the poverty line with six packets of sanitary napkins, at ₹1.
After our success in Kerala towards ensuring the menstrual health of female students, we are bringing up the #BleedWithoutFear campaign in the colleges of Delhi University. We are demanding the installation of sanitary pad vending machines in all the colleges and departments of Delhi University at the earliest.
We also demand that pads dispensed from these machines be of good quality and meant for heavy flow. They should also be made affordable so that students from all the sections of the society can afford them. We demand that sanitary pads dispensers that have already been installed but are lying defunct due to lack of maintenance, should be taken care of.
Bleed without fear is not a one-shot campaign, it will be a continuous movement to ensure the menstrual health and hygiene of female students in the university.