The Centre's ambitious and much-awaited scheme of making available subsidised sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 years in rural India will be operational by August.
As part of promotion of menstrual hygiene, the napkins will be sold to girls at a cost of Rs.6 for a pack of six - Re. 1 per piece - in the village by the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA).
This scheme is aimed at ensuring that adolescent girls in rural areas have adequate knowledge and information about menstrual hygiene and the use of napkins. The girls will be provided a pack of six napkins under the National Rural Health Mission's brand ‘Freedays.'
In the first phase, the scheme will cover 25 per cent of the population — 1.5 crore girls in 152 districts of 20 States. It is expected that with availability of sanitary napkins at the village level, their use will increase. Easy access and convenient pricing are the strategies adopted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for increasing usage of safe and hygienic practices during menstruation.
The ASHA will get an incentive of Re. 1 on sale of each pack, besides a free pack of napkins every month.
Evidence suggests that lack of access to menstrual hygiene (which includes sanitary napkins, toilets in schools, availability of water, privacy and safe disposal) could contribute to local infections including Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI). Studies have shown that RTIs are closely inter-related with poor menstrual hygiene and pose grave threats to women's lives, livelihood, and education. Services for the prevention and treatment of RTI/Sexually Transmitted Infections are integral part of the Reproductive Child Health II Programme (RCH II).
In India, menstruation and menstrual practices are clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions for women as well as adolescent girls. Limited access to safe sanitary products and facilities is believed to be one of the reasons for constrained school attendance, high dropout rates and ill-health due to infection.
With specific reference to ensuring better menstrual health and hygiene for adolescent girls, the government is launching this scheme as part of the Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) in the RCH II. The sanitary napkins will be manufactured and supplied by the Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL) and self-help groups. Tamil Nadu, Haryana and West Bengal will depend totally on self-help groups for the supply of the napkins.
The Mission Steering Group — the highest decision-making body of the NRHM — had approved the proposal for supplying the napkins at a highly subsidised cost of Re.1 a pack of five to the girls below poverty line while the rest would have to pay Rs.5 a pack.
However, the price has been made uniform for all girls now.