Sanitary Napkins

In a country where women have reached the frontiers of space & are achieving heights, basic necessities such as access to clean drinking water, toilets, basic education, fundamental knowledge and products for feminine hygiene are still unavailable to large proportion of female population. Poor sanitation is affecting Indian women a lot. India is almost 32 years in attaining its sanitation goals & the situation gets worse with every year of delay.

Women’s hygiene in India has always been a topic that has courted a lot of controversy and hearsay. Around 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene and women continue to put their health, livelihood and dignity at risk.

According to Mumbai-based start-up, 88 percent of women use unhygienic material such as newspapers, cloth and husk when menstruating; 70 percent of women suffer reproductive tract infections; and 23 percent of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating due to inadequate facilities at schools. This scenario has changed in the past few years with the Government of India taking a lot of active initiative in spreading awareness about the dire need for having indoor toilets in rural areas.

Women and girls are especially affected by inadequate sanitation because of gender related differences.

Women often bear cleaning responsibilities and in many cases also are responsible for the disposal of human waste. During menstruation, pregnancy and postnatal stages the need for adequate sanitation becomes even more critical and Toilet-avoidance dehydration is a particular health threat. Women are acutely aware of safety and privacy issues associated with the need for sanitation.

There are many socio-economic benefits associated with improved sanitation services including efficiency (that is reduced time due to health and care-giving burdens), safety, improved health, transparency and good governance and empowerment. Gender mainstreaming can empower women to make strategic choices in terms of rights to assets and services, leading to better education and a healthier and productive population and improved social capital.

The current state of menstrual hygiene and sanitation in India is in a pathetic state. As per records, if only 18% women know how to use a sanitary napkin, the unrecorded number would be far lesser than this. “In our research, we found that women did not even know that they were not supposed to wear a sanitary napkin for more than 6-8 hours. Some of them wear it for 12-14 hours a day, making them prone to bacterial infection.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been involved in spreading awareness about women hygiene.

In order to ensure easy access to sanitary products Parivartan Sandesh Foundation (PSF) has launched Women's Healthcare campaign, this initiative includes distribution of free sanitary napkins, workshops on how to make a sanitary napkin, enrolling women to run their sanitary napkin factory, run seminars and classes on menstruation hygiene for both girls and boys and defying menstruation taboos through involving middle-aged men and women in the menstruation hygiene drive.

The article ends by saying that there is an urgent need to move beyond policies providing women with toilets to policies committed to changing the overarching power disparity between men and women. Solutions to the global sanitation crisis begin with transforming toilet insecurity to toilet security.

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