Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD)
‘Street and working’ children, as we all know, suffer from the worst kind of deprivation and denial of basic necessities, such as shelter, education, nutrition, health and hygiene, protection from exploitation, and the like. In the want of any meaningful support system and lack of parental supervision, they earn their living by working hard in a harsh and exploitative environment. They are often seen begging on the street, picking rags and waste materials, selling a variety of goods at traffic signals, working at roadside eateries, etc. The most common places of their habitation in Delhi are railway stations, bus terminals, religious places, under flyovers, commercial areas, traffic signals, etc. Exposed to abuse and exploitation, street girls live even a more vulnerable life.
Since the inception of Swachhta Abhiyan, MCDs (including SDMC), together with Delhi Government, have played a key role in enhancing the sanitation coverage of the national capital, which has indeed put Delhi on the path of becoming an ‘open defecation free (ODF)’ city. However, facilities related to menstrual hygiene is far from enough, particularly for the girls living on the street and in the areas populated with an abundance of slum colonies. Through this open letter, I would like to seek your kind attention to the issues faced by adolescent girls living under the flyover and traffic signals.
As these girls live occupying a scant space under the flyover, they are not in a position to enjoy the luxury of private toilet-bathrooms. For defecation and other cleaning purposes, they use a common public toilet, which is situated on the other side of the road. As it is a ‘Pay and Use’ toilet, they have to pay Rs 5 for each single-use. With the onset of the menstrual cycle, their frequency of toilet use increases manifold. On the very first day of a menstruation period, they use the toilet 4 to 5 times a day just for changing the pad. Since the same public toilet is also used for changing pads, their expenditure on toilet-use increases to around Rs 25 a day during the period. This may not be a huge amount for many, but for these street girls, who earn their meagre living by working hard on the street, the expenditure is beyond their affordability.
But their pain does not end there. Due to social stigma associated with menstruation, the keeper and staff of the toilet object to the girls using the toilet for this purpose. According to them, the toilet is not meant for changing pads as that makes the toilet unclean.
As these street girls also deserve a dignified life, considering the context described above, I would like to bring your attention to three specific demands of these girls:
1. These street girls should be allowed to use the public toilet without any charge/ payment.
2. The staff of the toilet should not make any objection to their use of the toilet for the purpose of changing pads. They should treat them with dignity.
3. Provision of sanitary pads: Sanitary pads should be made available to these girls at free of cost or nominal price so that they are able to manage their menstruation in a healthy and hygienic way. Sometimes, due to the reason of unavailability and unaffordability, they do not change pad for a whole day, putting herself on the risk of infection.
I hope that you would give due consideration to the issue, specifically for the girls residing under the flyover and traffic signals and take all necessary actions to bring succor to the menstrual sufferings of these girls.
Thanks and regards,
Social Worker at CHETNA NGO