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Chief Minister, Jharkhand

Subject: Government unfulfilled promises

Respected Sir,

I am Anushka from the capital city of Jharkhand and I am compiling this letter on behalf of many voices in the city to our newly elected Chief Minister Hemant Soren, in order to make him aware with the scenario regarding menstrual problems faced by the girls of Jharkhand. Every day, around 800 million women are menstruating worldwide and are struggling to manage their periods. In a developing country like India women are challenged by limited access to water, safe restrooms and hygienic sanitary materials. Some resorts to using newspaper, dried cow dung and dirty cloth to absorb their blood, often resulting in reproductive infections.

Recently, I encountered a girl name Khushi Kumari (name changed), student of Chottanagpur Girl’s High school (a government school in Ranchi) she was disappointed as she missed her final examination of standard eight because it was not convenient for her to go to school during her periods. She belongs to a poor family and buying sanitary napkins from the market every month is difficult for her as her parents cannot afford them. Khushi is not the only girl who faces this problem every month, rather many other girl student’s academics and life are in stake.

There was a scheme launched by former chief minister Raghubar Das in 2016, for distribution of sanitary napkins to girls students in government schools through the health and education department that initially came up with a big relief but after enquiring to few government schools of the city it brought to the attention that government’s sanitary napkin schemes caught in a limbo. Schools received only one round of consignment which lasted for six months or a year and some schools did not received consignment even for once.

Under the scheme, the education department is to ensure distribution of sanitary napkins to the girls studying in classes 6 to 12 in government schools while the health department has to ensure supply. After the launch of the scheme many schools reported escalation of attendance of girl student in the school. Joyti Sinha (name changed) a mathematics teacher from a Government High school Kanke, Ranchi said, “Missing schools and examination during menstruation is a common problem, but once the scheme was introduced and we distribute the sanitary napkins to girls in the first round we witnessed a hike in the attendance”.

Soon after its launch, the scheme has hit a road block with the health department not supplying the napkins after the first consignment. The first consignment lasted for a few months in some of the schools where the number of girl’s students are less. Neetu Tirkey (name changed) an economics teacher at the government school kanke, Ranchi said, “Since we have only 280 girls on the rolls, the first consignment of the sanitary napkins lasted for a year but there after the supply discontinued”.

The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyala, Ranchi, has lodged several complaints with the education department after the discontinuity of the supply, seeking for fresh supply of napkins but they never heard the response back. Anupama Kerketta the school teacher, who is also responsible for managing the napkins distribution in her school said, “We have not received any sanitary napkin despite informing the block office several times over the issue”.

Moreover, some of the government schools of the city had never received any supply of sanitary napkins since its launch. Vineeta Kumari, a non teaching staff of the Chottanagpur Girls high school in Ranchi said, “They were aware of the scheme but no supply of sanitary napkins ever reached the school since the time of launch of the scheme”.

According to a Report of Times of India Ranchi, The education and health departments which were supposed to work in tandem for ensuring seamless supply was passing the bucks to each other. Education department commented it’s the health departments’ duty to regulate the supply of the sanitary napkins where as health department commented their role was limited to supplying napkins whereas the human resource department was responsible for the distribution.

Meanwhile, Mangesh Jha an activist from Jharkhand who has been distributing the sanitary napkins to several adolescent girls said, “The distribution of sanitary napkin was also irregular in the Government schools of Dhanbad and Jamshedpur under the scheme. The girls around Jharkhand are going through really hard times during their periods they are using dirty clothes and other items which is highly unhygienic”.

This is an urge to the newly elected government of Jharkhand on behalf of every girl who is going through really rough time during their period; it’s really high time to come up with some serious and permanent solution to this problem because according to the National Family Health Survey, 82.1% of women in Jharkhand still follow unhygienic menstrual practices which even caused life of many and they don’t deserve this. Menstrual cycle being a very common and mandatory thing for any girl cannot turn out to be a reason for deadly diseases and stands as an obstacle in their path of education and success.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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