Menstrual Hygiene As The Focus, Maharashtra Works Towards Awareness And Access To Sanitary Napkins For Every Woman

New Delhi: ‘I am 44-years-old, I have spent all my life managing my periods with ashes. In the last few months only, I have learned what a sanitary napkin is. And, now that I have switched to using one, I have realised, how I was risking my life during periods all this while,” says Sushila Devi from Sangali, Maharashtra. Sushila’s not alone, only 12 per cent of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins and the remaining 88 per cent use anything between unsanitised cloth, ashes to sand or even husk.

Maharashtra is hoping to change this warped equation as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Minister for Rural Development, Women and Child Development, Pankaja Gopinath Munde launched a state-wide Asmita Yojana scheme recently. Through this scheme rural women in the state will now be given sanitary napkins at the discounted price. Pack of eight sanitary napkins will be provided at a cost of Rs 5 only.

For this a total of Rs. 3 crore has been allotted which will cover girls in 36 districts of the state. This entire scheme is being implemented by the Rural Development Department under the Maharashtra State Rural Jivonnati Campaign with the Additional Director of Family Welfare Department functioning as the Nodal Officer.

Also Read: Menstrual Hygiene: Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar Kick Starts A Feminine Hygiene Awareness Program

In a bid to reach more women of Maharashtra, a mobile app and a web portal under the same scheme has also been launched.

During the launch, Pankaja Gopinath Munde made an announcement that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had decided to bear the cost of sanitary napkins for 50 girls for the next 12 months, whereas I have decided to do the same for 151 girls for the next 12 months.

She also added,

Only 17 per cent of women use sanitary napkins in rural areas of Maharashtra. Non-use of sanitary napkins invites infections and compromises personal hygiene. The Asmita Fund scheme will provide napkins at affordable prices and increase their use.

Apart from this recent step, in 2017, the Maharashtra government made menstrual hygiene education mandatory in schools. Under this programme, schools of the state were instructed to follow the extensive programme on menstrual hygiene education designed by UNICEF, which includes six exhaustive sessions by hygiene experts, one every month. Also in 2017, a pilot project of state government, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) programme was launched in Sangli district of Maharashtra. Through this programme, the government aims to reach out to over 85,000 girls in the first phase and later extend the initiative in all the areas of the state to cover an estimated 40 million households.

Through the MHM initiative, representatives from the district collector’s office, department of water and sanitation and UNICEF will visit the schools and anganwadis twice a month to conduct awareness programmes on menstruation.

Also Read: Western Railway Takes A Historic Step, Installs Sanitary Napkin Dispensers And Incinerators In 6 Divisions

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