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Women In Remote Hilly Areas Do Not Have Access To Sanitary Pads During The Lockdown. Why Are These Not Considered Essential?

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The stigma surrounding menstruation in our country is bad as it is. Thousands of young girls and women suffer every year due to lack of access to menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads and tampons. And then of course, prejudices and age old practices that demonise a woman on her period and isolate her from society is a whole other battle that women are forced to fight. Now, take a moment to think about how much worse this situation can get in today’s time of crisis. We are facing a severe scarcity of essential products, and this includes sanitary napkins and tampons. This is especially true for remote areas of the nation.

Schools and Anganwadi centres were the only places where menstrual hygiene products were available. But since they have shut down, the women and girls living in the hamlets of Kadambur Hills in the Gudiyalathur Panchayat have no access to them. They have been suffering greatly due to this.

Eighteen year old Periyamma from Pathripadukai village said, “I usually get sanitary pads from the Anganwadi near my home, but since the curfew was imposed the centre was closed and I have no means to get them. My sister and I have been using clothes for the last two months. Since we do not have proper toilets, it is difficult to wash the clothes.” The lack of toilets is yet another major issue. Periyamma said that women usually have to travel half a kilometre to the open fields to relieve themselves and dispose off their used pads.

Abirami, whose parents work in an agricultural field and have limited savings left, said that she cannot afford to spend Rs. 30 on sanitary pads. Hence, clothes are the only option left for her. She also mentioned that her life had become a lot easier thanks to the sanitary pads available at her school.

What is even more shocking is that many people would not consider sanitary pads and tampons to be essential goods. Women in the remote rural areas of India have been using cloth instead of pads for years, and this unhygienic practice has led to diseases and even death. Hygiene is a basic requirement for all of us. Had the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products been taken seriously earlier, we would not be facing this crisis today. Is it fair for women to have to compromise on products that they need every single month? Periods are not optional, and sanitary pads shouldn’t be either.

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