Access to Affordable Sustainable Menstruation facilities in public spaces

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Access to sustainable and affordable menstrual products is a privilege in India. Even though there are inclusion of multiple Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) facilities in the Swachh Bharat Mission guidelines (SBM-G), nonetheless the implementation of the policies even in the urban areas of the capital city Delhi is abysmal.

According to a report by WaterAid, there are 336 million menstruating women in India and only 121 million (36%) of them use sanitary pads.

121 million x 8 pads/cycle = 1 billion pads/ month = 12 billion pads/year

If I draw mathematical similarities to East Delhi, the population of women is around 8 lakhs (Census 2011) and assuming only 36% have access to sanitary pads the number will be 288,000.

288,000 x 8 pads/cycle x 12 months = 27,648,000 (2.76 Crore Pads)

2.76 Crore pads in the form of menstrual waste is being generated annually by the women of East Delhi. (This is an approximation and the number can be significantly higher)

HEALTH CHALLENGE - The MHM policy guidelines under SBM also mention only sanitary napkin vending machines, which are technically health hazard for both adolescent girls and women since they are made of 90% plastic. Sanitary napkins contain banned toxic carcinogenic compounds which leads to diseases like UTIs, STIs and cervical cancer.

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE - They are not only harmful for the menstruators, but also contribute the immense menstrual waste which end up in landfills like Ghazipur. A sanitary pad takes around 500-800 years to decompose, posing severe threat to the environment and future generations. There is a Menstrual Health Alliance India report that mentions, how 45% of menstrual waste often ends up with the general household waste and increased burden of Solid Waste Management by the administration.

I was content with conducting workshops with few groups of people on sustainable menstruation when I heard about the municipality of Kerala that was distributing menstrual cups to women for free. They have committed to reaching 5000 women and their entire female population to curb the menace of menstrual waste creation and management.

I am writing this letter to request the constituency representative of East Delhi (MP, Gautam Gambhir and East Delhi Municipal Corporation) to voice the issue and take relevant actions regarding;

1. Creation of a minimum of 10 Pink Toilets, with affordable facilities for sustainable menstrual products like reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups across the East Delhi Municipality and covering a minimum of 5 Wards by December 2020

2. Affordable access to sustainable menstrual products in public institutions, schools and colleges across East Delhi by March 2021

3. Initiation of Training and Capacity building sessions at the municipality and school level to create awareness regarding sustainable MHM practices by May 2020 (Menstrual Hygiene Month)

If East Delhi can create Pink Toilets with all provisions under the Swachh Bharath Mission while also including affordable access to Sustainable Menstrual Products (Reusable Cloth Pads and Menstrual Cups) it will;

- Become the first ever Municipal Corporation in India to take this initiative

- Directly impact the health and hygiene of 8 Lakh+ women and adolescent girls in East Delhi in a positive way

- Contribute to less waste creation and in turn reduced waste management by the municipality, especially with the increasing challenge of managing the Ghazipur landfill

- Lead to better scorecard during the Swachh Survekshan League 2020 (Q3: October-December)

- Inspire best practices for other municipalities and states to replicate across the country

I have switched to menstrual cup in 2018 and have also shared my journey on platforms like Medium and The Logical Indian. I am also working on projects related to creating awareness on sustainable menstruation with youth groups across Delhi NCR and the need of making the switch for better health for self and the environment. 

Please support me in this journey of making access to affordable sustainable menstrual products a reality for all women; starting with East Delhi. 

Thanks and Regards,

Nitisha

Image Credit - Boondh Cup and EcoFemme Pads