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Choice Between Food & Menstrual Products for Poor Women?

Menstruation already had a significant amount of harmful socio-cultural norms and stigma attached to it and thereby causing discrimination of women and girls. Along with the prejudice , women in different parts of the world suffer from period poverty. Due to poor socioeconomic conditions they are unable to maintain menstrual hygiene due to unavailability of sanitary products. They also have been suffering from poor health conditions due to lack of nutritious food and proper hygiene facilities. Widespread restrictions and negative perception around menstruation has not only affected the health of the women but also led to strong gender disparities in education and work participation.

In the rural areas menstruation is a challenge in terms of gender equality , while we may suffer from annoyances of pain and discomfort but it does not have much impact on our professional or personal life. For many girls especially in the rural areas or underprivileged women in the cities this is not the case. Menstruation is one of the leading cause of dropouts from schools as there is lack of hygiene and unavailability of menstrual products but now with several organizations working towards this cause efforts have been made to help these girls have happy periods but due to the current pandemic situation many women and girls are at a crises. These women were dependents upon the school supplies or SHGs whose supplies have been restricted.

The nationwide lockdown caused by the pandemic situation of Covid-19 has made India susceptible to a massive risk of mega recession and such events have already started affecting the poor. Underprivileged women and adolescents girls are being forced to choose between food and menstrual products. Families who are dependent on the daily wages for their livelihood now cannot afford to buy sanitary pads for the women and girls in the family. With Feminine Hygiene products remaining uneconomical it is becoming difficult for most women especially in the rural pockets of the country to afford reasonable standards of sanitation. Women who have limited supplies are forced to use disposable pads for longer hours than advised are risking their health. Also stigma regarding periods is still well prevalent in the villages and these women feel ashamed to ask for menstrual products when their families are in such crisis situation as menstrual products are not considered as essential items in most places.

In the midst of such crises Anahat’s current Covid relief campaign #bleedinpeace in collaboration with Paint It Red supported by the German Consulate Kolkata is working to provide reusable cloth pads to the underprivileged women and girls in some villages of West Bengal to make sure they don’t suffer from “ No Napkin” during menstruation.

Anahat supports the use of reusable cloth pads as switching from disposable pads is a subject worth revisiting again. There are several reasons for using cloth pads over disposable pads as they are healthier. Disposable pads are made with plastic , cotton and synthetic fibres. These artificial fragrances and synthetic chemicals cause side effects like allergic reactions , hormone disruptions and reproductive and gynecologically disorders. Reusable Cloth pads can last for years compared to disposable one that last a few hours and have to be thrown away hence making cloth pads much more cheaper and economical. Finally cloth pads are much more sustainable. One disposable pad takes 800 years to decompose in a landfill. Such waste causes land , air and water pollution and affects the animal habitat as well. Though plastic applicators are recyclable but are not usually accepted due to sanitary reasons.

Reusable Cloth pads are also a better options during this pandemic as once they are distributed the women do not have to go look for pads again during this lockdown. There is also a shortage of disposable pads as most of companies manufacturing disposable pads are at a halt and for poor women who are struggling from poverty, feeding their families and themselves is the foremost priority and they might end up using rags as their conditions have made them to overlook hygiene. Also using disposable pads during the pandemic makes waste disposal a huge problem as the municipality workers are not able to work regularly therefore piling up the waste for weeks. Hence using Reusable cloth pads are much more economical and sustainable option during this pandemic and thereafter.

Even though the global pandemic is raging women are making efforts to support other women during this pandemic. Efforts are being made by a number of women from the Masat Village in helping those in need.

A women named Aparna Mondol from the village of Masat located in the Diamond Harbour Block in West Bengal is working with Anahat in stitching the cloth pads. She lives with her mother who is 70 years old and her brother who has been working as a daily wage labourer. Aparna is one of the earning members of her family and is mainly engaged in stitching and is also a part of the Self Help group.

Another women named Shuprobha Bera also from the Village of Masat is working for stitching Reusable Cloth pads with Anahat. She is a teacher in a nearby primary school in the village. She lives with her husband, 6 year old daughter and her mother in law. She is also a part of the Self Help Groups in the village.

Though people are in a state of panic due to the pandemic outbreak and millions are suffering from lack of food and medicine but small efforts are being made by a number of different people in helping young girls have Happy Periods and create a big difference in future.


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