Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary. (Photo: ANI)
State cabinet minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on Tuesday said that the Assam government has made mandatory for all factories and industries to keep sanitary napkins in a bid to promote hygiene among women, the New Indian Express reported.
“The government has made it mandatory for all factories and industries in the state to keep sanitary pads for the welfare of the working women,” Patowary, Minister for Industries and Commerce told the media.
The decision taken during the Assam Cabinet meeting chaired by CM Sarbananda Sonowal is expected to benefit thousands of women tea garden workers as they constitute a major portion of labour in tea estates.
Northeast Nowreports that the BJP-led government had last year implemented a scheme to give girls between the ages 12 – 20 years and from families with an annual income of less than Rs. 5 lakh, an annual stipend of Rs. 600 for purchasing sanitary napkins. To ensure easy access to hygienic menstrual products, the government had earmarked a sum of Rs. 30 crore with an aim of reaching out to reaching 5 lakh women in the year 2018 – 19.
Menstruation has always been a taboo topic for women across the country, more so in rural areas where families are struggling with providing their children an education and making ends meet. According to the National Health Survey Report, of the women in the age of 15 to 24 years in India, 42% use sanitary napkins, 62% use cloth and 16% use locally prepared napkins. Overall, 58% of women in this age group use a hygienic method of menstrual protection.
In Assam though, only about 41% from the same age group use hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period. Rehna Sultana, an activist and a research scholar at Gauhati University said that more than 70% rural women still do not use sanitary pads, resulting in various diseases like pelvic inflammation and vaginal or urinary tract infections.
Poverty and the lack of awareness have been the two major reasons for women not using sanitary pads. Women activists working to spread menstrual hygiene in Assam have not only started distributing pads for free, but have also designed reusable pads which significantly bring down the cost for women who can purchase them.
Assam, which is also regularly ravaged by floods, sees its women struggling to maintain menstrual hygiene when they are in relief camps at such times. Apart from providing hygiene assistance, activists feel it is important to emphasize on eco-friendly products and other alternatives like the menstrual cup, especially in an absence of a proper waste disposal system in rural areas.
While the initiatives of the government hold promise, they need to be expansive in their implementation and reach women in all households so that menstrual hygiene becomes a reality.
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