The rural women in Telugu States becomes helpless to cater their essential need ‘sanitary pads’ for their daily use. No work, no money makes women in distress to ask a help with health volunteers. #KhabarLive delves to get the exact picture during lockdown period in these areas.

Padma Lakshmi, a volunteer based in Telangana district, received a call from a woman saying, “Please arrange for sanitary pads. I don’t need groceries or anything else, I just need pads.”

This is not the first time Padma has received calls from distressed women asking him to supply sanitary napkins. “In all the calls I received, the women asked me for pads due to poverty. They say their family thinks spending Rs 100 on pads is not necessary,” he says.

Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, Spurthi Kolipaka, a menstrual literacy advocate, has received 810 requests from women for cloth pads during the lockdown period. There has been a surge in the number of requests received through NGOs from the month of March, says Spurthi, who promotes the use of cloth pads over commercial pads.

Spurthi, a volunteer for Menstrual Health Hub (MHM) Collective, an organisation aiming to create a global period empowerment network, says, “We have been providing pads to NGOs who distribute them to construction labourers who have access to regular water supply. These cloth pads are washable and can last for a minimum of 2-5 years.”

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During natural calamities volunteers always make sure that sanitary pads find a place in the list of essential commodities because medical shops remain closed. However, the COVID-19 relief kits prepared by volunteers failed to include sanitary pads, until they started receiving calls from distressed women asking them for napkins.

For many women, sanitary pads are not affordable and this has forced them to rely on volunteers for help. A sanitary napkin in Telangana costs between Rs 3 to Rs 10, and a woman needs around 15 pads on average for use over one menstrual cycle. In such a scenario, labourers and people from underprivileged families who lack money to buy even basic necessities like food and medicines consider sanitary pads an excessive expenditure, say volunteers.

Volunteers from other parts of Telangana have also been receiving calls with requests for supply of sanitary pads.“I have received around 7-8 calls just in the last week asking me to provide sanitary pads. The women usually ask me hesitantly if I can provide them groceries and arrange for pads,” says Anasuya, a Andhra Pradesh volunteer.

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This apart, pad manufactures say that there is also a shortage of sanitary napkins, especially in rural areas. Many pad manufacturers, including ‘Padman’ Padma Shri EasyCosy, Tellabatta, have written to the government to open small manufacturing units to avoid shortage in supply.

Talking to #KhabarLive, Aruna Reddy, a pad manufacturer based in Hyderabad says, “There is a shortage of sanitary napkins in the country and I’ve received information that even the state government is unable to procure pads for official purpose. I’m afraid that all the efforts of the government to create awareness among women on using pads may go waste and the lack of pads may force them to switch back to old practices.”

Speaking on the availability of cloth pads, Spurthi says, “We don’t have a huge market for cloth pads so we have a stock of 5,000 pads. At the moment there isn’t any shortage of pads but if the lockdown continues we may face a shortage.”

Activists urge govt to help SHG women resume pad making
According to manufacturers, they should be allowed to resume production and not be forced to wait till the lockdown is lifted. “Sanitary pads are under the essential categories list but there is no clarity on the production or manufacturing of pads. Including pads to the essential list alone will not be enough to start production as supply of raw materials is also equally important,” Aruna points out.

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Many activists also express concern that the lack of sanitary napkins may force women to go back to the age-old unhygienic practice of using cloth or rags. These can cause infections among women and improper disposal of such materials could pose a risk to everyone in the vicinity, say activists.

“If there is a shortage of pads the government should provide relief for self-help group members in each district and allow them to produce pads for distribution in their regions. As many people are struggling for food, they don’t see the need for listing pads under essential commodities. However, the government should act on this matter immediately and ensure that women get sanitary napkins,” says Vijayalakshmi, a women’s health activist.

“Lack of sanitary pads for one cycle can pose a lot of danger to a woman. If women go back to the practice of using cloths, especially during this pandemic, the infection levels can go up alarmingly,” she adds. #KhabarLive


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