Survey: Indian Women Unable To Access Menstrual Hygiene Products Under Covid19 Lockdown
The lockdown has severely impacted access to menstrual hygiene products for women in India, a survey has found. Eighty four percent of women either have very restricted access to menstrual hygiene products under the lockdown, or have absolutely no access at all, the study concluded.
The survey by Menstrual Health Alliance of India and WaterAid India, found that 62 percent of respondents found it challenging to access menstrual hygiene products through regular channels under lockdown, while 22 per cent said they did not have access at all. The study also included rapid response survey among 45 organisations that manufacture and/or distribute menstrual hygiene products across India. It found that only 25 percent of small and medium scale manufacturers of sanitary materials were fully functional under lockdown, while the rest had diverted their resources towards manufacturing of PPEs.
Also, the units manufacturing pads right now barely even have raw materials for the next three months. Further, they have also been severely hit by road transport restrictions, unavailability of migrant workers, and the closure of import channels. In addition, two-thirds of the organizations that distribute sanitary products had to pause their operations because the usual channels they rely on — schools and community outreach groups — have shut down due to the pandemic.
“Disrupted supply chains for period products means many people are finding it much more difficult to access everything they need to manage their periods. This combined with a lack of privacy under lockdown and the closure of services at schools, health centres and communities that provide menstrual health products, information and help tackle menstrual stigma, risk halting or even reversing the enormous progress that has been made towards better menstrual health globally,” Thérèse Mahon, Regional South Asia Manager at WaterAid and Coordinator for Global Menstrual Health and Hygiene Collective, warned.
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“The culture of silence around menstruation has become even more evident in the Covid19 pandemic. Millions of women and girls from economically disadvantaged sections of the society are finding it difficult to manage their periods safely, hygienically and with dignity,” Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative, said on the occasion of Menstrual Hygiene Day yesterday. To break the silence and raise awareness around menstrual hygiene, UNICEF also launched the #RedDotChallenge that has been trending Twitter and Instagram with celebrities and influencers like Manushi Chillar, Jasleen Royal and Scherezade Shroff, among others, participating in the initiative.
But, India isn’t alone: menstrual health of women across the globe has taken a backseat. Another survey conducted across 30 countries found that 73 percent of women were facing restricted access due to shortages or disrupted supply chains. Yet another UK-based survey found that every three in 10 women were struggling to access period products under lockdown with 54 percent of them using toilet paper as an alternative.
“Periods do not stop during pandemics… As we emerge from lockdown and develop long-term solutions to the crisis, now is the opportunity for governments to prioritize the provision of clean water, good sanitation and hygiene – not only critical in the fight against coronavirus but also essential for women and girls to manage their periods,” Mahon added.