As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – IV, as many as 62% young women in our country in the age group 15 to 24 years still use cloth for menstrual protection. The survey found that 42% of young women in the country use sanitary napkins and 16% use locally-prepared napkins. Majority of women in rural areas did not use a hygienic method of menstrual protection with the survey findings indicating that only 48% of those surveyed in rural India used sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycle as against 78% in urban parts of the country.
In the past five years, India has aimed to educate women about menstrual hygiene and sanitation. In rural India, many girls and women who have to go through menstruation process every month, are unable to access the sanitary pads while some are shy and afraid to ask in the stores. They also have to face problems, not only in rural but also in parts of urban areas, like from not touching the pickle, not stepping in the temple, not washing stained/unstained clothes in the open, not entering the kitchen area and the worst of all – not going to school. India has menstruation taboos and beliefs which have almost crippled its women with chronic reproductory infections.
Only in seven of India’s 36 states/union territories did 90% or more women in the 15-24 age group use hygienic protection during menstruation, according to the latest national health data. Not even 50% of women used clean methods of dealing with menstrual hygiene in eight states/union territories. The mean for these eight states was 43.5%, with Bihar the worst at 31%, according to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS), released in 2015-16. In seven states — Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, NCT Delhi, Kerala, Mizoram, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu — 92% of the female population, on average, used hygienic methods of menstrual protection. Lakshadweep topped the list at 97.1%.
The government schemes and self-help groups are doing their best to create awareness and provide sanitary pads, but are still lagging to make it accessible to all daughters of India. The problem is compounded by the fact that even when pads are being provided to women at bare minimum prices by the government, they are often not being given regularly. Also, many young girls are too shy to ask for them from health workers who are designated to provide them. It is awkward for them to ask for these things. Often, they are not available as well.
The Indian sanitary market is gradually growing, and access to rural areas with affordable price range would boost its consumption. Sanitary napkins market in India to be worth US$ 631 million by 2023.
What if it is possible for a company (which might be founded by you) produces quality sanitary pads at cheap prices with the help of technology and creates a distribution network in such a way that every daughter of the mother India has access to buy sanitary pads where and whenever required. Imagine the girls and women free from urinary/reproductive tract infections as well as bacterial vaginosis which is the proliferation of bacteria in the vagina, no more ‘no-entry’ instruction to visit temples, no more dropping out of schools or taking 50-60 days because of periods.
Your thoughts and actions would solve a lot of problems and issues that a girl or a woman faces in her life due to menstruation and can live freely by focusing on education, becoming independent and some of them too might make India proud by working in their respective areas of interest.
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