Give cloth pads and provide comprehensive menstrual awareness for boys & girls in schools
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In the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene, by Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (ARSH) via the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (since 2013) single-use disposable sanitary napkins (DSNs) are given to adolescent (10-19 years) girls at Re.1/pad. This has the following disadvantages –
a. DSNs contain 90% plastic, super absorbent polymer (SAP) with extremely high water absorbing capacity, many unknown chemicals (bleaching agents and perfumes) all of which are known to increase the chance for rashes, itching, and discomfort in pad users. The vaginal skin is prone to absorbing chemicals from its surroundings.
b. Disposal is a huge concern as it is can’t be flushed, buried, burned or dissolved in water. In India, disposed pads are either burned (releases lots of extremely hazardous fumes) or put in a landfill (it takes more than 800 years to degrade and enter our water and food chain); both these methods harm all of us indirectly, even those people who don’t use DSNs. Also, when it is flushed, the SAP causes it to clog toilets, drains and sewages, causing trouble to people who work with cleaning these systems.
c. Chlorine used to bleach pads white, unintentionally also produces a by-product, Dioxin, which is highly hazardous, not just to the users, but also to those who are involved in the manufacturing and also waste segregation.
d. Girls who are initiated to DSNs through these schemes will get adapted to it, and cannot move to safer and cheaper alternatives like cloth pads and menstrual cups unless they get awareness and access to these options too. This is very important because the subsidized DSNs are available to poorer sections of teenage girls alone (first 5-10 years of periods). Post-teenage, also, they will want to buy DSNs if habituated with only that, but there is no scheme to support adult women with DSNs. Buying it will be a major economic extra burden on adult women, then. This is very relevant, going by the current data from National Family Health Survey shows that in India, 77.5% urban, 48.2% rural & 57.6% total India, girls & women of age-group 15-24 use only DSNs.
Current Cost Details of Disposables versus Reusables
Disposable Pads: Average expense = 150Rs/month = 1800Rs/year for
(this cost will be there every year, and will increase with inflation, taxes etc)
Reusables (cloth pad/menstrual cup): Approximate initial cost = 600 – 2500Rs (prices vary with the brands & products used), can be used for at least 5 years and Average expense = 10 – 42Rs/month
From 150/month to 42/month, there is a huge reduction in the economic burden on women's lives.
Therefore to counter health issues, environmental pollution, and economic burden, we urge the government to introduce reusables, especially the cloth pads through the scheme, and provide a holistic education beyond just sanitary pads, and extend the menstrual awareness education to boys too.
Even though we don't have statistics to show how significant it is to include menstrual education to boys too, we have a lot of personal experiences and testimonials from both boys and girls saying how much effective it was for them to get the education and exposure. This also made them comfortable about the same, and not resort to harmful sources to get the right information.
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