200 million girls in India lack awareness about menstrual hygiene and its associated health practices. 88% of menstruating women use old fabric, rags, sand, ash, wood shavings, newspapers, dried leaves, hay and plastic, instead of a sanitary pad.Dasra report, 2016
Lack of awareness about the menstrual cycle leads to a myriad of health related problems; it also dismisses the need to buy a hygienic sanitary napkin.
Expensive sanitary napkins is a further deterrent to women, especially those living in rural India – that is close to 200 million women.
When women are given the inexpensive means to deal with their periods – to use anything that they can lay their hands on – it causes irreparable damage to their health. What it further perpetuates is a cycle of bad health practice: menstrual knowledge is generally imparted from the mother to her daughter. If the mother practices harmful menstrual health practice, chances are that the daughter will imbibe it as the gospel’s word.
How can one tackle this issue? Education (of course), and the availability of inexpensive sanitary napkins.
Sample this: A regular pack of Whisper Ultra, 14 pads, costs me Rs 155 and it suffices two days. So, I blow up almost Rs 360 in 5 days. Obviously, I am an urban-dweller and I spend more on food every day, and so, this is quite affordable in comparison. However, a daily wage labourer’s daily income is Rs 500, and she will NOT be able to afford the luxury of a sanitary napkin if she has to shell out more than half of her daily wage on it.
It took decades for ministers to realise this. The one who did is Sushmita Dev, a Member of Parliament. She wants to make #TaxFreeWings: an initiative that could save our country’s women from succumbing to life threatening diseases at tender ages of 14,15 and 16.
She has started a Change.org petition and is demanding the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to consider this provision very seriously.
According to the petition:
It (making sanitary napkins affordable by cutting the tax) is bound to have an impact on attendance of girls in schools, adding impetus to greater women participation in our work force which is just a meagre 21.9%. Affordability, ease of availability and accessibility needs to be at the forefront of this battle.
Thank you, Sushmita Dev, if this petition is considered seriously, it would bolster ‘beti bachao’ in the true sense.