#PeriodPaath: Coming Out Of A No ‘Whisper’ Zone

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Dear Smritiji, 

I am writing to you as you are an empowered woman, mother to a daughter and the Minister of Women and Child Development in Government of India. You might have come to know about Scotland making the Sanitary products freely available to all women. I would like to take you through some harrowing facts in this regard in India as well.

According to this article, India has staggering 336 million women of menstruating age as per Census 2011 Data , yet only 36 percent have access to safe sanitary products.

 

Period poverty causes 23 million girls to drop out of school and 70 % of all girls and women of menstruating age suffer from reproductive diseases as per this report.

 

United Nations calls it a Human rights issue and we need to look at it as a matter of Right to dignified living under Article 21 of Indian Constitution – 

 

  1. Accessibility: Lack of Access to sanitary napkins and safe sanitation facilities has been a barrier to have a safe ‘period ‘ – more so in rural and remote regions of the country as evidenced by women like Meena .

 

  1. Affordability : It costs around six rupees to buy a sanitary pad in India which is way too high for women like my domestic help -and her two daughters-who lives off a meagre 3000 rupees salary . For a country where incidence of poverty is quite high on woman, it’s a big hurdle in keeping with personal menstrual hygiene expenses. 

 

  1. Lack of awareness about the government schemes : The Oxo -biodegradable ‘Suvidha’ Sanitary napkins under  Jan Aushadhi scheme is a good initiative , these Jan Aushadhi centres are only handful and are little known among the target groups , even in Central Delhi .

 

  1. Lack of Alternatives : Scalable, easily usable and environmentally sustainable like  this innovation of reusable sanitary napkins by two  IIT Delhi alumni. 

 

  1. Quality regulationsSaral Designs’ Suhani Mohan says the quality guidelines for manufacturers are too outdated.

 

  1. Supply chain and Tax dampeners – Despite the GST rate brought to nil from 12 %,  cost still affected by GST on other materials, thereby creating roadblocks in incentivising low-cost sanitary napkins’manufacturing. Commercialisation and competitive environment are the key to cover the millions of targeted women population in this flourishing sector.

 

  1. Guidelines on menstrual hygiene management are greatly intended to focus not merely on infrastructure but on developing life skills in adolescent girls and women to tackle sanitation hygiene issues. But the awareness and implementation at all levels do not seem to be as enthusiastic. 

 

  Way ahead :-

 

 Ma’m, Please raise the supply chain issues for regular free public availability of sanitary products, with other relevant Ministries viz – Ministry of commerce and industry, MHRD etc.

 

Also, for safe disposal and eco-friendly yet quality products, it’s needed to look at the strict implementation of the National guidelines on Menstrual guidelines.

 

Regular counselling sessions should be organised by trained female teachers and counsellors in schools. 

 

There is a need for awareness and policy emphasis towards sanitary alternatives like tampons and menstrual cups as well, especially in urban regions of the country. 

 

Swachh Bharat and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao can’t be termed as fully successful unless Menstrual hygiene is comprehensively, persistently and passionately worked upon.

 

-A Hopeful Indian Woman.

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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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