New Delhi: In India, while menstruation is associated with ‘taboo’, sanitary napkins come in newspapers, and black polythene. The state of menstrual hygiene is such that the topic is brushed under carpets and talked about in hushed voices. Safe menstrual practices are a rarely touched topic and because of that only 12 percent of the menstruating women in India use sanitary napkins. To change this scenario, Bareilly District Administration has decided to provide low-cost sanitary napkins to women and girls of 1,800 villages. The highlight of the initiative is that sanitary napkins will be provided at the door step of the consumer.
Talking about the initiative, Chief Development Officer, Satendra Kumar, says,
In Bareilly district, there are two major reasons behind not using sanitary napkins, first, majority of women don’t know why is it crucial to use sanitary napkins as opposed to cloth, ash, husk, and other unhygienic alternatives. Second, medical stores are far away from villages and even if it is present in a village, it is run by one of the villagers itself and women are hesitant of purchasing from the people they know. To overcome these two issues, we have initiated the program to provide sanitary napkins at door step. In the first phase, 250 villages are being focused upon.
To make rural women aware and get sanitary napkins easily, district administration has roped in 25 Self Help Groups (SHGs). Every month a pack of sanitary napkins costing Rs. 16.50 will be provided to SHGs women which they will be selling at a price of Rs. 20, earning a profit of Rs. 3.50.
SHGs women have a connect with rural women which will make the awareness sessions a cakewalk. Also, the pads we are providing weigh 8 grams. These pads have great absorption capacity. With low cost, we are not compromising with the quality of the product, tells Mr. Kumar.
On July 9, the district administration had first discussion with selected SHGs. SHG from 15 different blocks were invited to attend the workshop at Vikas Bhavan, in Bareilly. The reason for inviting limited number of SHGs was to train them well. Later, these warriors will take forward the message of menstrual hygiene. During the workshop, two SHGs agreed to manufacture low-cost sanitary napkins, but the idea was been put on hold for a while.
Currently the sanitary pads are manufactured and supplied by Gram Panchayat Udyog. We don’t want SHGs to set up a manufacturing unit and go through losses. Once SHGs women develop their market among rural women, SHGs will set up their own manufacturing unit which will lead to reduction in the cost of sanitary napkins, says Mr Kumar.
As of today, more than 100 SHGs have partnered with the district administration. With having around 1,000 women on board, the project can be scaled up right away, but administration wants to go slow.
Our main motive is to ensure acceptability and usability of sanitary napkins. For the same, first we want to train SHGs women, make this project successful in 250 villages and later rope in anganwadi workers and expand the project, signs off Mr. Kumar.