Menstrual hygiene programme: Napkin use increases, but disposal a worry

While the use of sanitary napkins in Tamil Nadu has increased by over 25 per cent since the launch of the menstrual hygiene programme seven years ago, a number of related problems, including lack of awareness on the safe disposal of such napkins, persist.
Menstrual hygiene programme: Napkin use increases, but disposal a worry


Stating that they had conducted a study on the quality of napkins being distributed by the government, besides the amount of delay experienced in receiving them, Swathi R, a student of Social Work in the city, said, “Young girls and mothers have been receiving sanitary napkins every alternate month. However, they complained that the size ofthe pads are small so the supply does not sustain their period.”

She said that these young girls and women do not have any idea about the hazards these napkins may have on the environment when disposed in an improper manner. “We were shocked to learn that they dispose used napkins in waterbodies,” she added. On ensuring that the quality of the napkins is not compromised, gynaecologist Dr Shanthi N said, “The government distributes only three packets of napkins every alternate month. How can 18 napkins be adequate for two months? Also, if the quality is bad, it can cause rashes and blisters.”

It may be noted that the Department of Public Health (DPH) distributes just 18 packets having six napkins each to girls every year. “As many as 32.8 lakh girls receive the packets each year besides post-natal mothers. We have been distributing the packets for seven years and the use of sanitary napkins has increased by almost 30 per cent in the state. Each year, over 10 lakh more women receive the packets,” said Dr K Kolandaisamy, Director, DPH, adding that they hope to reach the targeted numbers in five years.Launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2011, the programme aims at creating awareness about menstrual hygiene programme. “This programme was launched to reduce the use of rags and old clothes for menstruation, which is what women in rural areas mostly rely on,” added Dr Shanthi.

The programme covers rural areas in 107 districts across 17 states. The sanitary napkins distributed under the scheme are manufactured by rural Self Help groups and quality control measures are left to the states. A study conducted in the country revealed that Tamil Nadu was the only state that took the programme seriously in terms of regular distribution.

“We have multiple suppliers – namely HLL Lifecare, Ultra Care and Mafatlal. For the mothers and other adults, we procure the napkins from Self Help groups through the Tamil Nadu Women Development Corporation,” said Dr P Umanath, MD, Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation.

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