Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
As we enter the year of 2020, the disparity in treatment of the genders in our country speaks for itself. With a rank of 129 in the HDI gender inequality index, India is a place where women do not feel safe. It is their home too, yet they are scared to walk alone. They are not only someone’s sister, wife, daughter or mother, they are their own person. The fact that their relationships with the men in their lives are used to sensitise the wrong-doers in our country provides a very distinct image as to how women are viewed in this society. Economic growth alone will take us nowhere, if the women in our country are left behind. Approximately 67% of our population inhabits the rural region of our country, with 920 women per 1000 men. They form a huge and vital part of our population. Yet, they face problems in accessing basic necessities such as sanitary napkins.
Menstruation is a cycle that almost all women have to undergo, since their menarche which occurs at the age of thirteen to fifteen. Dysmenorrhea, commonly known as period cramps, affect every women at different levels of pain, no matter their economic condition is. However, women in rural areas have worse conditions. With many women still using wood shavings as they bleed, the dissemination of information based on menstrual hygiene is the need of the hour. Apart from wood shavings, in many rural areas, women use cloth, as sanitary napkins are often out of their purchasing power- they are not to be blamed. Even if cost-friendly alternatives can be availed, the usage of sanitary napkins depends on the proximity of their locality to a village or a city, and if they find a general store, more than often, it is guarded by men, which makes the transaction difficult for women due to the stigma surrounding menstruation.
This problem does not only affect the well-being of the citizens of your state, it also affects the economy and hinders a possible growth boom. The onset of menstruation brings along with it an overwhelming multitude of girls dropping out of school- about 23%. One may wonder why this could possibly occur, as if even if they wanted to miss school due to the acute pain, they should be missing only a week every month. In many surveys conducted, girls begin missing that one week, after which they continue classes. However, it becomes hard for them to cover up with the portion and they end up not faring well in examinations, which leads to them ending their education. All of this just because they do not have the right facilities available which would allow them to go to school.
So, what is it that you can do to help them? Firstly, to summarise the problem, there is a lack of the 3As; Awareness of hygiene, access and affordability. The first probable solution would be to make the sanitary napkins available at a lower cost to all rural areas in our state. Second solution could be having women work at grocery stores or providing them an incentive to do so as then it would be easier for women to purchase the necessary commodity. The last probable solution would be to have awareness camps, especially for young girls, so that they can understand what menstruation is and how to be hygienic once it begins. This should also be used as a fact-checking system and should correct all their beliefs regarding menstruation, like it is unholy or impure, or that using the same cloth is not harmful, instead they should taught from where they can purchase sanitary napkins at a cheaper rate, and if they are unable to do so, they should be taught to use new clothes alternatively, and not one cloth per month. Let them not think menstruation is a curse, it is a celebration of womenhood, yet that is not only what it means to be a women. Their sacrifices and their achievements define them, that they must not forget.
As the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, it is your duty to ensure that the women of this state are also provided with equal opportunity to work and be part of the growth, and that goal requires use to help them be hygienic as well. This is not something that they chose to be going through, but if they are, you must ensure that they do not remain at a lower position due to a biological activity. “Sabka saath, sabka vikas.”