HYDERABAD: The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a menstrual health crisis in Telangana, where more than five lakh girl students are deprived of regular supply of sanitary napkins due to closure of schools.
Until recently, adolescent girls across the State were being provided sanitary napkins under the Adolescence Education Programme (AEP), a State government initiative. Of the 5 lakh girls, 20,000 are students of 180 government schools in Hyderabad.
Speaking to Express on the condition of anonymity, an official from the State Education Department said that to address the issue of menstrual hygiene, especially in rural areas and amongst low-income families, the State government had initiated the distribution of sanitary pads to girl students from Classes 6 to 10.
The distribution was done quarterly, and every quarter, adolescent girls were given 30 sanitary napkins each, which generally last for three months.
“In addition to the pads, we also provided them with other grooming items like hairpins and handkerchiefs. The distribution was last done in December. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the schools were shut and we could not take up the distribution after that,” the official added.
Back to cloth
Arti, the daughter of a domestic worker in the city, considers herself lucky that her mother is able to buy her sanitary pads every month. However, she is not sure if they can afford it for long. She claims that many of her friends will also not be able to buy pads as they are ‘quite expensive’.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Reene Grace, from the Grace Foundation, said, “When we were distributing grocery kits to low income and migrant families, many women told us that they were not able to afford sanitary napkins. They were forced to re-use cloth strips during their period. In fact, I met a girl from a migrant family, who didn’t even have old clothes to use. There were period stains on her. Soon, we added sanitary pads in each of our grocery kits,” she said.
Another activist said, “The pandemic does not stop menstruation and concerns regarding menstrual health. The State and Central governments should understand this and distribute sanitary napkins as an essential item.”