Help provide longer term solutions to monthly cycles
MILLIONS of women, especially in rural India, could not access sanitary pads during the lockdowns to contain the Coronavirus spread. Having a safe period for Indian women living in villages and smaller towns was already a challenge due to factors like social stigma, poverty, inaccessibility, etc. The pandemic and measures taken to contain it only worsened their situation and sparked a sanitary pad crisis in the country. The problem started when a nationwide shutdown was announced from 25 March, and sanitary napkins were not included in the essential items’ list initially.
The last mile always suffers first
In remote villages, women could not buy sanitary pads even at their block or district level markets as the supply was disrupted and there were restrictions on public transport and mobility. A survey by the Menstrual Health Alliance India (MHAI) found that 62% of their respondents stated that access from regular channels for consumers had become difficult while 22% of organisations reported that there was no access to menstrual products.
Pads have not been available in the local store in remote villages and people have had to go to the nearest district centre or town, sometimes 20-40 kms away. A story by RFI depicts an instance during the lockdown where Renu Gaur of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, had to ride 28 kms on her bike just to get sanitary pads so the girls of her village could have safe periods.
Shortage due to closed schools
Across states, government-run schools play a critical role in promoting menstrual hygiene and providing sanitary pads to their girl students. With schools shut in the last few months, many girls and women in their families have had no way to get sanitary pads. In general, most young women are not comfortable asking men in the family to get pads for them as menstruation is generally a subject not openly discussed in Indian families.
Many have been forced to resort to unhygienic practices of using ash, mud or hay covered in rags to manage their bleeding. This puts them at constant risk of infections that could impact the reproductive and overall health of women who use them.
Helping hands and sanitary pad distribution
The shortage of pads has affected women across India and more severely in semi-urban and rural areas as compared to cities. Millions of workers especially in the informal sectors including daily wage earners, migrant workers, domestic helpers, and several others lost their jobs in the lockdown and could not even afford to buy food, let alone other essential items like sanitary pads, masks, sanitizers. Girls in these families have had to resort to using old cloth and rags.
NGOs working for causes related to women’s health and hygiene raised funds and distributed sanitary napkin packs during the lockdown. A few sanitary napkin manufacturers such as the Indian brand Paree also came forward to distribute napkins. Police in cities like Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, etc assisted in distributing hygiene kits to the residents of slums as well as stranded migrants in relief camps.
Your donation can make a difference
Even with the end of the lockdown and the situation slowly normalising, the difficulties for a large number of women to access healthcare and better hygiene are far from over. To address this issue, GiveIndia’s partner NGOs Praveen Lata Sansthan and Stonesoup Trust are manufacturing reusable sanitary pad kits to support better menstrual hygiene for women from low-income groups.
The kits contain multiple pads or inserts made of reliable cloths such as bamboo charcoal and unbleached Corra cotton which are washable and can last many monthly cycles. These ensure adolescent girls and women can have safe periods and are a longer-term solution to disposable pads, which create an environmental hazard in any case.
Please donate online to this campaign to ensure better menstrual health from women and girls – every woman deserves the right to have a safe period.
GiveIndia, now in its 20th year, is India’s largest and most trusted online donation platform with 1250+ NGOs, 13 lakh donors and has raised ₹450+ crore.
Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.