Menstruation is an intrinsic part of a woman’s life, and yet, for most women, it turns out to be a horrid recurring experience due to lack of access to basic resources like sanitary napkins. As per statistics revealed by the National Family Health Survey - 2015-16 , only 36% of India’s menstruating women use napkins, while the rest lean on cloth, rags, husk or even ash to manage the flow. And if that’s not all - nearly 23 million girls drop out of school annually after their period begins.
The coronavirus outbreak further amplified the issue. In fact, when the Covid-19 lockdown was announced in March, sanitary napkins were not in the list of essential items, which were exempt from restrictions. Not only was there shortage of sanitary napkins, but it also put a stop to several existing distribution pads, thereby depriving women of safe and hygienic periods.
Several organisations stepped up to take stock of the situation, including Raho Safe, the sister concern of India’s leading hygiene and wellness brand, Pee Safe. The brand recently distributed free sanitary pads to over 60 female inmates of District Jail, Neemka, Faridabad. The drive has been initiated under the brand’s #HaqSePERIOD campaign that focuses on a woman’s right to safe and hygienic periods. More than 144 packets with around 864 Raho Safe sanitary pads and educational booklets on menstrual hygiene were distributed to all inmates.
Elaborating on why he started this initiative, Vikas Bagaria, Founder, Pee Safe and Raho Safe, said, “It was while I was reading an article that I understood that even female inmates across India lack access to sanitary pads. They are also deprived of the amount of water required during menstruation. We have been spreading awareness on removing the stigma against periods. It was time to go a step further and ensure that women and girls have access to menstrual products irrespective of their socio-economic status. We want to be an enabler in removing period poverty from the country.”
Although Neemka was the first stop, Raho Safe also plans to reach out to as many prisons in Rajasthan and Haryana in the coming months. Raho Safe, launched in March 2020, offers a range of affordable products such as sanitary pads, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers.
Various distribution drives in full swing
The pandemic witnessed various other NGOs initiate similar distribution drives to help women have a happy and healthy period. Pad Squad, founded by Taranjit Kaur, Chhitra Subramaniam, Mayuri Joshi Dhavale, Gillian Pinto, Niiya, Monica Raheja, Surya Balakrishnan, Devashish Makhija and Shilpi A Singh in June 2020, began in response to the pandemic-induced lockdown to help menstruating women and girls from underprivileged homes. Currently, ‘Padsquadders’ from more than 22 cities have joined the initiative, who have distributed pads to over 30 communities. Pad Squad has undertaken various donation drives through the pandemic to distribute over five lakh pads.
Besides, Pad Squad has also created a campaign called ‘Pad Peti for Every Beti’ that encourages residential associations to donate pads.
Another non-profit organisation, Charitnation, started a campaign called “Let’s fight Period Poverty-Donate-a-pad” that helped women and girls from underprivileged communities during Covid-19.
There was also Helping Hand India NGO, who in association with Give India Fundraisers, has been working towards raising five lakh rupees to contribute sanitary napkins. As we already know, periods have often forced the majority of girls to skip schools during their menstrual cycle, eventually leading them to give up on their education. Under the campaign, sanitary pads are being distributed to rural girls, new mothers, and those studying in government schools.
Another name on this list is Give India, that organised a campaign that involves various NGOs like Praveen Lata Sansthan, Jagriti Sewa Sansthan and Stonesoup Trust. Through the campaign, migrants, slum dwellers and daily wagers living in remote villages in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh who needed sanitary napkins were identified. By contributing Rs 400, people can donate a kit that contains several essential products required for periods, including multiple reusable pads. The pads are created from bamboo charcoal, unbleached corra cotton, and have leak-proof layers. The campaign claims to have been able to raise over Rs 9,75,677 until November, with the assistance of 497 donors.
(Edited by Anju Narayanan)