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The launch of a new 100% biodegradable sanitary napkin by the Government of India is promising – although only actual use will tell us how good the product really is!
There has been a long standing demand from women’s groups for removing the 12% GST on sanitary napkins to make affordable and safe menstrual hygiene products accessible to women from rural areas and the poorer sections of society.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, about 58% of women aged between 15 and 24 years use locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins and tampons. While about 78% women in urban areas use hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period, only 48% women in rural areas have access to clean sanitary napkins.
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Many women in the remote areas have not even heard about sanitary napkins and continue to use older methods like discarded cloth pieces, grain husk, dry leaves and even sand to contain menstrual blood. These are not safe in terms of hygiene and pose a severe risk of women catching multiple genital infections.
To make safe and hygienic sanitary napkins available to women from every strata of society at affordable rates, the Government of India launched on March 8, 2018, the International Women’s Day, a biodegradable sanitary napkin called ‘Suvidha’ under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). Priced at a very nominal Rs 2.50 per pad and Rs 10 for a pack of four pads, these pads promise ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha‘ to underprivileged women. Suvidha pads will be available at over 3,200 Janaushadhi Kendras across India by 28 May, 2018 which is also the World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
While launching the sanitary napkins, Mr Anant Kumar, the Union Minister for Fertilizers and Chemicals said, “Such unhygienic aids cause fungal infections, Reproductive Tract Infection, Urinary Tract Infection, Cervical cancer and also make women vulnerable to infertility. Moreover, the disposal of non-biodegradable sanitary napkins available today creates a huge environmental problem,” he said.
According to Menstrual Health Alliance India, an NGO, sanitary napkins constitutes over 45% of menstrual waste, which is disposed off as routine waste along with other household garbage.
Sanitary napkins are often thrown in water bodies, by the roadside and even flushed down the toilets. Only about 9% of sanitary waste is burnt and 8% buried. Such unsafe methods of disposal create a major health hazard.
To prevent the likelihood of infection to garbage handlers and sullying of soil and water sources through recklessly disposed sanitary napkins and also to make them degrade faster, a special additive is added in the Suvidha napkin which makes it 100% biodegradable when it reacts with oxygen after it is used and discarded.
While the efficacy and degradability of the ‘Suvidha’ sanitary napkins will be tested only after May 28 when it is made available to public through the PMBJP, the initiative is quite thoughtful. If the claims of the manufacturers are correct, this will prove to be a real boon for all disadvantaged women who can’t afford expensive sanitary napkins.
Image via Unsplash
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