Laudable scheme

The Centre must be lauded for the proposed launch of a scheme under which rural girls will be able to access subsidised sanitary napkins. Under the plan, sanitary napkins will be available at a cost of Re 1 each for rural girls in the 10-19 years age group. If implemented well, the scheme could contribute significantly to improving the health and hygiene of young girls.

Girls in India have traditionally used old cloth and rags rather than disposable napkins during menstruation; lack of awareness and high cost of sanitary napkins forcing them to do so. Soiled cloth is thus used and reused repeatedly causing reproductive tract infections and even morbidity. By offering sanitary napkins at a low cost, such infections can be reduced. However, offering low cost sanitary napkins will not by itself improve hygiene of girls. The government must ensure the availability of water and clean toilets so that girls can keep themselves clean. Health workers must educate girls on the importance of personal hygiene and teach them how to use and dispose sanitary napkins in a proper way.

Provision of low cost sanitary napkins will not only improve female health in rural India, but also, it will reduce the dropout rate of girls from schools. One of the important reasons for the high dropout rate of adolescent girls in the country is the lack of access to safe sanitary products. Studies have found that around 23 per cent of girls drop out of school once they start menstruating. Not being able to afford the security that one feels with use of napkins, girls prefer to stay at home. The lack of toilet facilities and privacy in schools forces them to stay away from school. Such insecurities are likely to reduce by providing girls with affordable napkins.

The government will implement the project initially in 152 districts of 20 states. Roughly 1.5 crore girls are expected to be covered during this phase. Given the huge gains that are to be made in improving female health as well as literacy, it is important that the government extend the scheme to all districts as soon as possible. Studies have revealed that just 12 per cent of Indian women use sanitary napkins. This means that many in urban India too are not using napkins because they cannot afford them. The government must consider extending this scheme to the urban poor as well.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)