MLA of Goregaon
Subject: Infrastructural development for better menstrual health
I hope this letter that I am writing to improve menstrual health near me finds you in the pink of your health. According to the ECI, only 4% of MLA/MP in Maharashtra are women hence I write this letter ecstatically and brimming with hope.
In the hustling and bustling streets of Mumbai- a city that welcomes everyone. A city where dreams come true. One can find anything and everything in Mumbai apart from a clean public washroom, let alone a sanitary napkin/tampon vending machine and a proper disposal system. As a twenty two year old working women, the thought of suddenly getting into my period between transits sends chills down my spine. I am afraid to use public bathrooms which are firstly so scantily distributed and secondly so dirty.
A survey published in NDTV said that 66% of girls and women manage periods without toilets in India. I naively limited these figures to rural India but soon the realisation of homeless women struggling with menstrual hygiene struck me.
Looking at the bigger picture, I realised that I extremely privileged to be able to use a sanitary napkin that costs 14 rupees each. I am privileged to change and dispose my pads sooner or later. I am privileged to be able to keep myself clean. But what about the homeless women? How do they cope up with menstrual hygiene? What about those women who live in places with shared washrooms? What about working women?
As a curious being, I hit the streets and spoke to ten homeless women across goregaon between the ages of sixteen and forty five. Their truth was horrible. It paralysed me with fear. They said, “Didi, we use old cloth. Sanitary napkins are expensive and we don’t even know how to use them.” When I asked them how do they manage to change their cloth they said, “We rarely change it during the day. We have to pay two rupees for each time we use the public washrooms and they don’t let us wash our blood stained clothes there. ” “If we start using sanitary napkins what will we eat?”
The need for Infrastructural development
I was in utter shock. Periods are normal. It is a natural process which is important for the survival of human race. We can instruct young girls and teach them the normalcy of menstruation but actions speak louder than words.When our infrastructure is at par with our beliefs that’s when change takes place. Indian government is constantly trying to improve health conditions but is it truly enough?
4.Pads are a basic necessity like food and water and should be treated like one. Sanitary napkins should be made tax-free. We also need a system like our current ration system that distributes feminine hygiene products against ration cards at a nominal rate. A period kit care can also be distributed every month at a nominal charge.
Periods for the homeless can lead to embarrassment, worries, health woes and hunger. Hence, we need infrastructural development and we need it now. So, that no women has to ever chose between lunch and hygiene.