Access to sanitary napkins and Awareness about menstrual health - The need of the hour.
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Affordability of a sanitary napkin has been quite a debated issue.
However, what is one going to with affordable napkins if they are hard to find in the remotest of places in India and the women/girls in these areas have no knowledge about how to use them?
Yes, affordability is a huge problem. But accessibility and awareness is the need of the hour.
According to surveys, the number of women using hygienic methods to manage menstruation has increased over the last few years, at 78% in urban areas and 48% in rural areas overall. The Government has rolled out various schemes which have been quite successful in increasing access and awareness.
However, these government efforts are marred by lack of funds. It needs to be understood that continuous supply of sanitary napkins is not a one-time expense.
The quality of the sanitary napkins is not up to the standard. Furthermore, these programmes provide 5-6 napkins per month at subsidised rates, which is just not sufficient for an entire cycle. On an average, 12-20 napkins are required for each cycle. Due to the lack of pads, women do not change their pads frequently (every 6 hours), which is extremely unhygienic.
It has been proved that use of cloth during periods is not dangerous if the correct methods are taken to maintain hygiene. But the major problem in a lot of rural areas is access to clean water and open places to properly wash and dry the reusable cloth. Many women are forced to wash their pads in the same water with which they bathe and have to dry the pads in dark, damp corners which may later on cause infections. Another obstacle is feeling too ashamed to wash, dry or dispose of the pad. In this case, awareness and ending taboos and rituals is necessary. Women as well as men must be educated about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. The society’s mindset must be changed in order to normalise the issue.
That is not all. In rural areas where women do use pads, there isn’t proper collection and transportation of waste. Hence, menstrual waste is often discarded in the ponds, flushed down the toilet or women are forced to walk several kilometres to discard or burn the pads.
Therefore, the objectives of the petition are as follows:-
• Awareness about menstrual hygiene. Good menstrual hygiene practices need to be talked about and discussed in the open in order to improve economic and environmental sustainability and health.
• Access to clean toilets, water, and private changing places must increase. This is one of the main reasons that girls drop out of school, the other being period cramps.
• Stigma around menstruation must end. Regular workshops to educate rural and urban women and men about menstruation are necessary.
• Napkins should be made easily accessible in the most remote parts of the country. Starting factories that produce low-cost environment-friendly napkins would not only make them accessible, but also create jobs for people in these areas and in turn, not pollute the environment since sanitary napkins are non-biodegradable.
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