Sanitary Pads Vending Machines in all government and private schools in Uttar Pradesh.

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A couple of years back when I was travelling to few remote areas in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, to make a documentary film on adolescent girls on life skill development for an organization, I got a great opportunity to engage in dialogue with them about their life. After extensive dialogue over many days, we finally started to talk about their private issues, one of them being Menstruation and Menstrual Hygiene. It was not a shock for me to know that most of the girls were still using (dirty) cloth and also re-using them. And they were girls who were attending the life skill development center. After few days when they got their other female friends and relatives who were not a part of that center, I got to listen to the reality. Those girls (including the ones who were enrolled now, were earlier) using dry cowdung and soil during menstruation. When I asked them about using a clean cotton cloth or sanitary pads, few of them did not even know about sanitary pads.
This incident stuck in my mind for a very long time. I started to inquire about options girls and women use during menstruation, wherever I went within and outside Uttar Pradesh. And I got to know that this was a very common practice 'everywhere.' 

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There are over 355 million menstruating women and girls in India, but millions of women across the country still face significant barriers to a comfortable and dignified experience with menstrual hygiene. 

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 data released in 2015-16 makes for a grim reading and the data on the number of women in each state who use hygienic protection methods during menstruation even more so. In most states, more than half the women in the age group 15-24 do not have access to menstrual hygiene supplies; population wise, that is more than half of all women in India. Some states, however, perform better than others. What lies beneath this disparate performance? In Uttar Pradesh, not even 50% of the women (between 15-24) have access to hygienic protection - sanitary pads being one!

It also takes a toll on her educationThe role that access to menstrual hygiene plays in keeping girls in school is well-documented. Lack of access to proper hygienic conditions can increase the risk of reproductive tract infections. During their periods, young women struggle to go to school because of the poor quality of toilets, or worse, none at all.

Some states are indeed making efforts to improve access to menstrual hygiene. Several efforts have been made to provide sanitary napkins to school-going girls. Maharashtra offers sanitary napkins to women at Rs 5; Kerala does something similar through the ‘She Pad’ scheme; Tamil Nadu planned to install napkin vending machines in schools, and has a free napkin programme for women launched in 2011.

(Report : The Wire & FSG)



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