Sanitary pads are an essential item,they should be distributed along with ration

Sanitary pads are an essential item,they should be distributed along with ration

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Srijani Datta started this petition to Arvind Kejriwal CM of New Delhi and

The pandemic and the ensuing  nationwide lockdown has severely affected women’s access to menstrual hygiene products. Most women and adolescent girls from low income groups depend on community organisations and government schools for their access to sanitary pads.Earlier under several schemes of the Central and State government, sanitary pads were being distributed to these women for free or at a highly subsidised price  through a variety of channels such as government schools, anganwadi workers, NGO workers and ASHAs(Accredited Social Health Activists).

The Menstrual Health Alliance of India (MHAI),conducted a survey during mid-April 2020. The alliance is a network of NGOs, researchers, manufacturers and practitioners working on menstrual health and hygiene in India. The survey assessed the status of production, distribution and access to menstrual hygiene products during the coronavirus pandemic, to understand challenges and propose recommendations for relief work.The survey found that “62% respondents stated that in the communities they work with, access from regular channels for menstrual  product consumers has become challenging and 22% organisations report that there is no access to menstrual products”.

The survey also found that 84% women who responded said that there is either no or severely restricted access to sanitary pads in communities that they work in. It also stated that post lockdown, and given the physical distancing measures in place, 67% of partner organisations have had to pause normal operations. Before COVID-19,  89% of the organisations were reaching the community through community-based networks, 61% were distributing menstrual products through schools, 28% through door to door retail, 26% through online retail channels and 22% through traditional retail stores.

Pad production by small and medium scale production units,self help groups and NGOs has been severely affected due to unavailability of labour, restricted movement of goods and raw material and the working of these units at low capacity.Fifty per cent of the small and medium scale manufacturers reported that they are unable to operate at capacity and 25 per cent are not operational at all. Consumers who could access products at block or district level markets are unable to do so due to lack of public transport and mobility restrictions under lockdown.

For low-income households and those in the informal sector and daily wage workers who have lost their livelihoods, affordability comes to the forefront again. These families are struggling to make ends meet,in such a scenario they are unable to buy pads for regular users in their family. In relief camps and shelters where food and water are of primary concern, and in quarantine and isolation facilities where testing kits and essential medicines are the necessity, menstrual products for women are not considered an essential item .Female migrants have to travel long distances. They are finding it harder than ever to manage their periods safely due to a lack of clean public washrooms with running water, along with inaccessibility to a clean absorbent.

Schools closing down means many girls and their female family members in rural and urban areas now don't have access to sanitary pads.For the past three years, Muskan, a 14-year-old girl from a slum near Lajpat Nagar in Delhi who goes to a state-run school, has been receiving a pack of sanitary napkins every month from her school but with schools shut, the supply of pads has stopped. Daughter of a mason and domestic help, Muskan shared “I don’t have pads at home. The last pack I got from school got over in March. Since then, I make pad at home with the help of my mother by wrapping some cotton from our pillows and mattress into a cotton cloth.”

“Awareness sessions, workshops and distribution of sanitary napkins in government-run schools has come to a complete halt. Because of the lockdown, many people have lost their livelihood and now more than ever, lower middle class and economically poor families are reluctant to spend on sanitary pads. A lot of girls and young women are going back to their previous ways of handling periods.” said Dr. Surbhi Singh, Gynaecologist and Founder of ‘Sachhi Saheli’, a Delhi-based NGO.

“I think the maximum impact of lockdown has been on the government school girls because schools – a critical part of the supply chain – are closed during the coronavirus lockdown. They were getting free pads every month from their school. But now since all schools are closed, they are facing inaccessibility of sanitary pads. The government is not providing sanitary pads along with foodgrains or under some other schemes. These girls are completely cut off from the supply for over two months. In Delhi alone, approximately 15,000 have directly impacted due to COVID-19 lockdown in terms of the menstrual hygiene management.” said Vikas Bagaria, Founder, Pee Safe.

Limited availability of menstrual hygiene products and inability to maintain hygiene can affect the health of menstruators adversely. Women and girls use their menstrual products for longer than recommended, or turn to unhygienic alternatives such as old cloth or rags. This increases the risk of developing reproductive tract infections (RTI). Women do not seek required healthcare for RTIs even under normal circumstances. With non-essential health services curtailed and frontline health workers focused on the pandemic response activities, RTI symptoms resulting from poor menstrual hygiene are likely to go unaddressed. Hence, action for ensuring access to safe menstrual products and information on menstrual hygiene are critical. Denying women access to hygienic menstrual products negatively impacts their human right to health, education and work.

We demand that sanitary pads should be distributed along with ration in New Delhi. It should also be made available in quarantine and isolation facilities. Since ration distribution centres have already been set up, its wise to use these centres as channels for distribution of sanitary pads. Effort should be made to identify the number of menstruators in a family and adequate number of sanitary pads should be distributed to each and every menstruator.

Sources:

https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/menstrual-hygiene-day-access-to-sanitary-napkins-getting-worse-during-the-covid-19-lockdown-45314/ 

https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/lockdown-hits-womens-access-to-menstrual-hygiene-products-survey/article31697210.ece 

 

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