For women in India, menstruation is much more than just a biological process. The society has associated cultural taboos and superstition at the cost of women’s health. When many urban, educated women are aware about the entire process of menstruation and menstrual health, there are millions of women in India who struggle with the same.
According to a report, around 87 percent women and girls are completely unaware about menstruation. They do not even know that it is a biological process. And when it comes to sanitary napkins, it is not all that easy for the underprivileged. The biggest barrier is affordability and the facts speak for themselves. To address the issue of menstrual health, the government of India on International Women’s day, launched biodegradable sanitary pads prized at Rs 2.50 per pad.
According to a survey, only 12 percent of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins and the remaining 88 percent of women resort to shocking alternatives like unsanitized cloth, ash, and husk sand. Such unhygienic aids cause fungal infections, reproductive tract infection, urinary tract infection, cervical cancer, and also make women vulnerable to infertility. Moreover, the disposal of non-biodegradable sanitary napkins available today creates a huge environmental problem.
Around 70 percent of women say their family cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins, and maybe it is these figures that make people believe that sanitary napkin is a luxury item which, in fact, is a necessity.
The Indian government finally decided to come up with a solution. On March 8, International Women’s Day, the government introduced Suvidha, a cheap biodegradable sanitary napkin brand under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). The pads will be available in pack of four, priced at Rs 2.50 each. Also, these pads are oxo-biodegradable, which means they come with a special additive that make them 100 percent biodegradable upon coming in contact with oxygen once it is used and disposed.
This brand would be introduced at over 3,200 Janaushadhi Kendras across India and would ensure Swachhta, Swasthya, and Suvidha for the underprivileged women of India. Speaking at the launch of this product, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, Ananth Kumar said, “This affordable sanitary pad will promote hygiene, ease of disposal as well as keep the environment clean.” The Suvidha pads will be available at all Janaushadi centres by May 28, 2018 which is also World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
For 42-year-old Santosh Devi, a domestic worker, this comes as a relief. “The family I work with is particular about waste management. Considering, I spend ten hours a day at their place, these affordable and more importantly biodegradable pads are an added advantage,” she says.
This decision of the government will surely benefit lakhs across India where girls can barely afford proper sanitary napkins. As the proverb goes Better late than never, the Indian government has indeed made amends of its previous decision to levy a 12 percent tax on sanitary napkins, albeit complete abolishment of tax on this mandatory item would be the best solution.
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