Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020: Lockdowns in India have not just led to closed borders, shuttered businesses, and movement of migrant workers but have far-reaching consequences for some people. During this critical situation, one of the worst-hit sections of society is women who menstruate. This is what the UNICEF states. Also Read - Menstrual Hygiene Day: Naagin 3 Star Anita Hassanandani Promotes Biodegradable Sanitary Pads

Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed every year on May 28 to raise awareness about the use of sanitary napkins. It also aims at providing this ‘essential’ commodity to those who do not have access to it. This is significant as the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16 suggests, only 57.6 per cent women in India use sanitary napkins. Others use cloth and even leaves that lead to vaginitis and urinary tract infections. Also Read - Menstrual Hygiene Day: PadMan Stars Radhika Apte-Akshay Kumar Wish The Girls With an Important Message

Even though the Indian government had all the data suggesting the importance of sanitary pads, the policymakers missed out on mentioning them in the category of essential commodities. On the other hand, young schoolgirls with poor family background who normally rely on their schools for getting free sanitary pads, did not get them and suffered a lot. Poverty has a totally different story to tell when it comes to using sanitary pads. Also Read - Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019: Tips Every Woman Must Follow

The term ‘menstrual hygiene’ seems to have lost the sight of authorities and that is why now NGOs in India are trying their best to bring it to the notice of the government so that women in slum areas or those who cannot afford sanitary napkins can get them for free. One such NGO is the Population Foundation of India.

Talking about how lockdown has unleashed a sanitary pad crisis in the country, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India stated, ” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated women’s deprivation of menstrual hygiene products, amongst several other basic needs. The lockdown has resulted in restricted access, mobility and freedom for women and girls making it even more difficult for them to manage their monthly cycle in a dignified, healthy way.”

“PFI’s NGO partners working in the field with adolescents in Bihar and Rajasthan reported stock-outs of sanitary napkins at local shops for the month of April. Aanganwadi centres, which are a major access point for sanitary napkins and iron and folic acid (IFA) tablets for girls were also closed. Not being in school for girls also means no weekly IFA supplementation and no sanitary napkin distribution,” said Poonam Muttreja.

She further continued, “Given that schools are closed and the distribution of sanitary pads discontinued, the government must ensure that the sanitary pads are distributed to girls in the community via its large network of Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) along with support from the ASHA frontline workers. In addition, subsidized sanitary pads can be made available for sale through the ration shops. It is the need of the hour to ensure a gender-sensitive and inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis so that the menstrual health and hygiene needs of women and girls are met, especially the most marginalized and hard to reach populations.”