Did you know that only 36 percent of India’s 336 million menstruating women have access to sanitary napkins?
With COVID-19 entering our lives uninvited, the number of women with access to sanitary pads has gone down drastically. For underprivileged women, feeding themselves has become a question mark because of job losses. During times like this, their menstrual health is relegated to the background. Poor menstrual hygiene can result in fungal and bacterial infections across the reproductive and urinary tract. They are also at the risk of Hepatitis B and cervical cancer.
Most female school children from rural areas got access to sanitary pads only from their schools. With schools shutting down indefinitely because of COVID-19, coupled with the inability to move freely, has made it extremely difficult for women to get sanitary napkins. They end up practising unhygienic methods like filling up socks with sand and tying them around their waists in the hope that it will absorb menstrual blood, using old pieces of cloth, reusing the same material, and using dried leaves, newspapers, etc.
To tackle the lack of access, especially during COVID-19, some NGOs have come together to conduct pad donation drives. Let us look at five organisations which are trying to help women from low-income groups during their monthly cycle.
It was founded in June this year in response to the pandemic-induced lockdown to help menstruating women and girls from underprivileged homes. The idea was the brainchild of Taranjit Kaur, actor and poet, and Chitra Subramaniam, a movie producer. Other members of the core team include Mayuri Joshi Dhavale, Gillian Pinto, Niiya, Monica Raheja, Surya Balakrishnan, Devashish Makhija and Shilpi A Singh. Today, ‘Padsquadders’ from more than 22 cities have joined the initiative, who distribute pads to over 30 communities. Pad Squad has undertaken multiple donation drives to distribute over three lakh pads.
Pad Squad also sources reusable pads through partner NGOs like Stonesoup and is also trying to equip women with menstrual cups. They have started an SOS medical helpline called “Hello Saheli”, in partnership with Sukhibhava foundation. The helpline offers free menstrual advice and gynae consultation to women and girls.
The pad donation drives are bolstered by the efforts of volunteers and through appeals on social media. The group believes in accepting donations only in the form of pads and does not encourage monetary donations. They have created a campaign called ‘PAD PETI for Every Beti’ where residential associations can also donate pads. The team at Pad Squad will then come to your buildings and collect the pads for distribution.
A global non-profit venture, Charitnation, has launched a campaign called “Let’s fight Period Poverty- Donate-a-pad”, aimed at women and girls from underprivileged households during COVID-19. Through the campaign, you can contribute a sanitary pad or a pack of pads. This initiative was launched as a part of Charitnation’s COVID-19 efforts.
This campaign is a collaboration between Big FM and Wonder Wings, with the objective of procuring sanitary pads to distribute to underprivileged women and girls for free. For every two pads that someone donates, Wonder Wings promises one free pad from their end. The pads that are donated will be delivered to partner NGOs across 52 cities.
In association with Give India Fundraisers, Helping Hand India NGO is looking to raise Rs 5 lakh to contribute sanitary napkins. According to the NGO, a majority of girls skip schools during their periods, and drop out without completing their education. As a part of this campaign, the sanitary pads will be distributed to rural girls, new mothers and those studying in government schools. The NGO’s volunteers will visit rural areas to create awareness among adolescent girls and women about the importance of using sanitary napkins.
The NGOs Praveen Lata Sansthan, Jagriti Sewa Sansthan and Stonesoup Trust have identified migrants, slum dwellers and daily wagers living in slums and semi-urban areas, including remote villages of Ajmer, Bundi, Bhilwara, Kota, Alwar, Jaipur Rural, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, and seven districts in Uttar Pradesh who need sanitary napkins. Through a donation of Rs 400, you can donate a kit that contains multiple reusable pads. The pads are made of bamboo charcoal, unbleached corra cotton, and have leak-proof layers which last for months. The Give India campaign has been able to raise more than Rs 9,75,677 as of writing this, with the help of 497 donors.
(Edited by Kanishk)