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Rural India is facing a menstrual hygiene crisis

May 28, 2020 05:32 AM


Rural India is facing a menstrual hygiene crisis
Ishita Mishra & Anuja Jaiswal TNN


For several years, Vineeta Yadav* in UP’s Sultanpur was assured a steady supply of sanitary pads every month by an NGO. In April, however, she was informed that no sanitary napkins would be coming for a few months as supply had been hit. In Dehradun, 14-year-old Anjali, daughter of a daily wager, also lost access to sanitary pads once her school which distributed the menstrual hygiene product under a government scheme shut down.

Both have now been forced to use old cloth or bits of hay, mud or ash wrapped in rags to manage bleeding. Sanitary pads have become scarce in parts of India, especially rural areas, amid lockdown as schools that usually distribute it have remained shut and NGOs and factory units that churn out low-cost napkins have been unable to keep up production due to unavailability of raw materials. Women from underprivileged background in cities are also unable to afford pads after their incomes were hit.

But some states are trying to ease the situation. In Punjab, police and district administrations are conducting extensive drives for distribution of pads to women in slums and rural areas. According to Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta, police have distributed over one lakh pads across the state until now.

Basic shiksha adhikari (Lucknow) Dinesh Kumar said 1,841 schools that were giving sanitary pads to girls have been shut. “In April, Lucknow district administration launched Sakhi Vans to distribute free sanitary napkins and soap to women. We also started a helpline number.”In Chhattisgarh, self-help groups are now distributing pads but they aren’t free of cost.

Madan Mohit Bhardwaj, founder of SheWings, an organisation that works on menstrual hygiene in UP, said their unit was shut since lockdown. In Odisha’s Ganjam district, D Gayatri, secretary of Dibyajyoti Mahila Samiti which manufactures low-cost sanitary pads for women in rural areas, also said they were making 200 pads a day before the lockdown but were unable to continue production.

*(Name changed to protect identity)

Police carry out a distribution drive in Ludhiana. In Punjab, police and the district administration are undertaking extensive drives for distribution of pads to women in slums and rural areas


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