#PeriodPaath: Sanitary Pads- A Luxury Or A Necessity?

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To,

Smt Smriti Zubin Irani,

Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development, 

Government of India.

Sub: Suggestions regarding making pads easily available.

Respected Madam,

While the women around the globe are opting for more environment-friendly menstrual products, like cloth pads, tampons, and menstrual cups, most Indian women still don’t have access to products as fundamental as sanitary napkins. 

On a planet as contaminated as ours, one would oppose the use of disposable sanitary pads as they frame a considerable share of the plastic waste generation. However, my views changed recently when I came across a report of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16, that revealed 57.6% of menstruating Indian women use sanitary napkins, and others, simply don’t. It would have been a very happy affair if the remaining women were reported to use environmentally viable menstrual products. 

Sadly, this is not the case. Now, what exactly do these women use? 

They use almost every porous item available under the sun, ranging from cotton cloth to soil and ash. This soil/ash is in direct contact with their private parts. The health hazards due to this practice are obvious and numerous

Dear Madam Minister, as women, and as human beings, we know nobody likes the touch of lumpy, cold soil on body parts as sensitive as the vagina. However, every month, these women are subjected to this humiliating practice owing to the poor financial health of their families. In India, a single pad costs between INR 5 and INR 12. Every month, a menstruating woman requires at least 8 pads, that too, when she manages to survive the day in as few as 2 napkins for about 4 days. This sums up to INR 40 a month, and INR 480 a year. This would be the cost if the woman just about manages to do with as little available as possible. The statistics and cost of being a woman may and most probably, will vary for each individual. It could as moderate as INR 480 per annum and as high as an annual sum of more than a thousand rupees! For many Indian families, buying a packet of sanitary napkin for the woman means giving up on another necessity in their hand to mouth income. 

I suggest you strictly focus on the issue of menstrual hygiene of women. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the health of a family depends on the health of the mother. To build a healthy nation, the first step is to build a healthy family.

  • The first and foremost step is to build bathrooms in every house. The napkins are of no use to any woman if there is no private space for her to change the used napkins.
  •  A separate department dedicated to Menstrual Hygiene should be set up in all Gram Panchayats which looks into all matters as the issue is more appalling in rural areas.
  •  Biometric cost-free pad dispensing machines should be installed in every village so that every woman gets her share of pads, no more, no less.
  • Awareness should be spread about the how-to-use of sanitary napkins at school level.

I, along with millions of women, would be more than grateful in knowing that each Indian woman is offered a healthy, respectable menstrual cycle.

Sincerely,

Adhishree Singh.

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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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