School girls in India are facing a massive shortage of sanitary napkins because schools – a critical part of the supply chain – are closed since the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020. This has left millions of teenagers across the country anxious.
Historically, issues that impact the lives of women and adolescent girls are usually been on the forgotten list in the times of crisis. When India entered a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, sanitary pads did not make it to the list of “essentials” to be exempted from the restrictions. Later, almost after a week when the availability of napkins became precarious due to the supply chain issue, the government had to clarify that the item was essential.
Due to the financial crisis triggered by the lockdown, many disadvantaged and poor families’ prioritized food rather than sanitary napkins. Moreover, the taboo and stigma attached to menstruation have forced many women to use unsafe materials like dirty rags and plastic bags to manage their periods. The added mental stress of lockdown i.e. total shut down of economic activities and physical stress would have also caused many vulnerable women to experience painful symptoms like headaches, cramps, spotting and body pains.
Poor access to water and sanitation in slums, poor personal hygiene standards coupled with the incredibly tight living spaces and taboos surrounding menstruation is making it extremely difficult for the lakhs of underprivileged girls and women to manage their periods properly. The poorest have always been the most vulnerable. Poor MHM can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), abdominal pain, high fever and anaemia amongst other problems. Anaemia, in turn, can result in heavier than normal menstruation which will only add to the plight of girls and women.
As the lockdown’s goal was to keep everyone safe and healthy, disruption in manufacture and distribution of sanitary pads and procurement of raw material has defeated the purpose. In pandemic, the situation everyone focusing on the distribution of masks and sanitizers. But the basic health care need of women is getting neglected.
To address this MHM issues among the underprivileged school girls, TGB Charity along with the help of SAATH Charitable Trust and Unipads India; together has agreed on a mission to educate 12000 less privileged adolescent girls in Gujarat on right menstrual hygiene practices and donate them Reusable Cloth Sanitary Pads. This pads which are environment friendly and a healthier option, will help these girls manage their periods for a whole year. That is the first step in handing girls the dignity they deserve and a sense of self-esteem.