When it comes to menstrual health in India, there are several barriers. First, there are absurd notions and taboos to be overcome. A report on a student project in the Economic Times in July 2017, stated that many women found it awkward to discuss menstrual health, because of the superstitions attached. Many were even scared of being seen disposing of sanitary napkins.
Another barrier is the access to sanitary napkins, for various reasons, including the high price of pads manufactured by large FMCG’s. There is also the issue of the lack of availability of sanitary napkins in districts and remote areas.
Hence, the fact that 58% of women aged between 15-24 years use locally prepared sanitary napkins, and around only 48% of women in rural areas have access to them, is not surprising. (Source: Health Survey 2015-2016)
The cultural taboos are slowly diminishing thanks to awareness. Now, thankfully, cost and location won’t be a barrier, as ‘Suvidha’ will literally make it convenient for many.
Launched by the government of India on March 8, 2018, ‘Suvidha’ pads are oxo-biodegradable and will be made available in packs of 4, priced at Rs. 2.50 per pad. They will be found across 586 Indian districts, at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi centres.
Ananth Kumar, the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, said that these are the first set of biodegradable pads available in the market, and are much cheaper than those available in the markets. This move by the Government is timely, especially since there is a GST on sanitary napkins.
A release by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers also said that disposable pads are safe, but many brands available in the country contain chemicals, pose health hazards, and aren’t eco-friendly.
Mentioning a report by PATH, Water Aid, and Water and Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, the ministry said India has 13 tonnes of annual menstrual waste in the form of 12.3 billion disposed pads. The eco-friendly pads should help curtail that.
‘Suvidha’ pads will be available by May 28, 2018, which is also World Menstrual Hygiene Day. These affordable sanitary pads promise to promote hygiene, ensure the ease of disposal, and keep the environment clean.