Indians are slowly becoming aware enough to realise that menstrual hygiene isn’t a topic which can be swept under the rug, and the Tamil Nadu government is leading the way.
In an attempt to improve the hygiene and sanitation facilities in government schools, the School Education Department plans to install 4,161 electrical sanitary napkin incinerators during the 2018-19 academic year.
The incinerators will be installed in 1,896 government girls high schools and around 1,438 higher secondary schools. This is a great move, especially because women feel awkward about disposing sanitary napkins.
According to the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation (TNTESC), the initiative is being carried out based on an announcement by the Minister for School Education, who had, last year, called for the installation of sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators across schools. An official from the TNTESC, told The Hindu, that a technical committee is brainstorming on an effective model for the project.
The official went on to add that vending machines won’t be installed, as the health department has been already distributing them in rural areas and schools. The health department distributes sanitary napkins to approximately 33 lakh, adolescent girls, annually. This demographic includes both school-going and non-school going kids, aged 10-19 in rural areas.
Interestingly, ‘Suvidha,’ a biodegradable low-cost sanitary napkin, will soon be made available in rural areas, according to a Government of India scheme. Each napkin costs Rs 2.50 and can be disposed of safely. Read here, how the low-cost sanitary napkin, is bringing menstrual hygiene to India’s remotest areas.
Disposability of napkins is an issue, which this project aims to tackle. A first from the Tamil Nadu authorities, similar initiatives have been carried out in some schools, by NGOs, private companies and SHGs (Self Help Groups). Engaging with adolescent girls in rural schools, they have been distributing sanitary napkins and installing incinerators, thus propagating menstrual hygiene.
G Shanthi, a teacher, states that although napkin vending machines and incinerators were installed in several schools earlier, many do not work now. Teachers have stepped in and try to spread menstrual hygiene awareness, teaching the girls good practices. Therefore, she says, a holistic approach, including medical assistance and timely maintenance of incinerators, would be very helpful.
It is obvious that India has a long way to go, regarding increasing awareness regarding menstrual hygiene, abolishing taboos and providing support. 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. However, if efforts are taken to promote menstrual hygiene at an early age and at the grassroots level, the above statistics might change for the better!
Edited by :Gayatri Mishra