Country-side girls in India may soon have the luxury of using high quality sanitary napkins to ensure menstrual hygiene at the cost of Rs 1 per pack of six napkins.
The government of India is planning to start an ambitious programme to supply highly cheap but high quality napkins to adolescent girls in Indian villages.
The government has already approved Rs 150 crore scheme to increase access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas, according to Public Information Bureau release under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
As per the scheme adolescent girls belonging to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) sections will be supplied pack of six sanitary napkins at a nominal cost of Re. 1 per pack In a bid to promote menstrual hygiene among them.
But for the girls belonging to the Above Poverty Line (APL) category will be charged Rs. 5 per pack of sanitary napkins (or the final determined cost in the state).
The sanitary napkins supply scheme is envisaged to be completed in three phases. About one quarter of Indian villages i.e. 150 districts (1500 blocks) out of a total of approximately 600 districts are expected to be covered in the first phase.
Sanitary napkin packs will be supplied in 150 districts across the country, of which 30 districts will be from the four Southern States, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and 120 districts will be in the Northern, Central and NE states in the first year.
The focus will be mostly on rural areas.
It is estimated that India is having a population of about 1.5 crore girls in the age group of 10-19 years. Out of these, 1.5 crore girls, the approximate proportion of APL girls is about 70% (105 lakhs) and that of BPL girls is 30% (45 lakhs).
The aim of the scheme is to increase awareness among adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene, increase access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas and will ensure safe disposal of sanitary napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.
At the community level, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) will be responsible for ensuring an adequate supply of sanitary napkins for adolescent girls who require them.
Selected from the village itself and accountable to it, ASHA are trained to work as an interface between the community and the public health system. ASHA is one of the key components of the National Rural Health Mission to provide every village in the country with a trained female community health activist.
The Sunday meeting by ASHA would be the key forum to enable this regular supply. ASHA will also contact girls in their homes who are unable to attend meetings to ensure that they have a supply of sanitary napkins.
The role of ASHA in supplying the sanitary napkins is one suggested option. States are free to select other mechanisms in keeping with local context. Incentive for ASHA is built in the scheme, she will get Rs 1 for every pack she sells, the PIB release said.
ASHA girls can source sanitary napkins through two possible ways. Through enabling manufacture by self help groups (SHG) in the states, given that across the country under various national and state programmes under Women & Child Development, Rural Development, Social Welfare, Women’s Development Corporations, SHG groups are fairly widespread and active.SHG is a village-based financial intermediary usually composed of between 10-15 local women.
This method of procurement will be applicable in the all 30 districts in the Southern states and 20 districts in the other states, where SHG presence is strong.
Second option can be sourcing through sanitary napkin manufactures through a competitive bidding process.
This can be done in the 100 districts in Central, Northern and NE states, where SHGs may not yet be mature. The choice of sourcing sanitary napkins will be left to the states.
However the states will need to put into place uniform standards for production and quality checks to ensure safety of the product in line with the Bureau of Industrial Standards.
The decision to supply sanitary napkins to the adolescent girls have been approved by approved by the Mission Steering Group of National Rural Health Mission chaired by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad and attended by Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Shri CP Joshi and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia among others.