NEW DELHI: After tasting acclaim and box-office success with the release of PadMan, makers of the film can relish in the knowledge that the film has inspired the Uttar Pradesh government to take up the issue of menstrual hygiene seriously. According to NDTV, the Panchayati Raj department of the UP government has launched a new scheme to focus on menstrual hygiene in rural areas.
Under the scheme, a gram panchayats will employ a ‘Padman’ who will be responsible for procuring sanitary napkins from manufacturing units and supply them to Anganwadi centres, which in turn will send them out to schools and local women for distribution.
Menstrual hygiene finds a significant mention in the Swachh Bharat guideline of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Proper procurement of sanitary napkins, their usage and disposal, as well as people’s awareness about menstrual hygiene is considered a part of making a village open defecation free (ODF) plus, the next stage after becoming ODF. UP presently has a rural sanitation coverage of 58.22 per cent, the fourth lowest in the country. The impact of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on the state has also been minimal in the first two years of the campaign, with acceleration in toilet construction only coming in, in 2017. The state is aiming to go ODF by October 2018. The areas going ODF will also be the ones where the message of menstrual hygiene will be promoted.
Rural UP suffers from woeful numbers when it comes to menstrual hygiene. Only 12 to 14 per cent of menstruating women in rural UP have access to sanitary napkins and the rest are dependent on cloth or other means during menstruation. Across rural UP, many women remain unaware about the importance of menstrual hygiene. The state government hopes that once they have access to sanitary napkins, women will also become aware about the importance of menstrual hygiene. In 70 centres in the state, sanitary napkin manufacturing units will be set up so that napkins can be easily transported to Anganwadi centres in villages.
Low awareness and high cost of sanitary napkins deter women from using them. Locally manufactured sanitary napkins will cost at least 70% less and encourage them to use napkins regularly. Locally manufactured napkins will be provided at a subsidised rate to women, said Mr Akash Deep.
The implementation of the scheme will be carried out by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in the state. They will be responsible for sensitising women in rural areas and ask them to come to the nearest Anganwadi centre to buy the sanitary napkins. ASHA workers have also been asked to carry out surveys in the ODF districts on how steep the demand for sanitary napkins is, and depending on the results, the manufacturing units will be setup.