“Sukhad Project”

There are approximately 355 million menstruating girls in India, of which 71% were not even aware of menstruation (or normally called as period) before their first period. To top that almost 70% of women in India cannot afford to buy sanitary pads for themselves or their daughters. 1 Currently in many rural areas, women have to use cotton cloths, cotton, dry leaves and other things for the most difficult times of the month. This promotes uterine cancer, growth of bacteria and many other diseases due to the unhygienic conditions. Most of the women do not go alone to the Chemist shop to buy the pads to avoid the “weird looks” from people inside the shop. Even after buying the pads we receive them in a black polythene (panni).
Apart from the looming health issues, the lack of awareness is also a big problem. In the current situation, Indian schools (mostly) try to educate the female population of menstruation with PPT’s and samples of a single pad, how to use and what not to do. Such is also done only for the girls in the class while the boys get free games/P.E. period!
The scenario of hygiene in the lives of young girls who have just reached puberty and had the first experience is pathetic the least to essay and the same continues for the rest of their lives. Girls do not have consistent access to preferred, high-quality MHM products. Almost 88% of women and girls in India use homemade alternatives, such as an old cloth, rags, hay, sand, or ash. Qualitative studies and an analysis of the product market indicate that premium commercial products are unaffordable or not consistently accessible for women and girls in low-income communities.
Even today, people are afraid to talk about menstruation on a day to day basis, whether it be in schools, colleges, offices, or at home. Women have to hide the pads at home so that the males in the family cannot spot them and use the pads in secrecy. The suppression of talks related to “periods” and the societal norms plus the gendered biases mostly perpetuates from her mother as she is the only person she can talk to during her harsh times. The child who just transitioned to a girl is not allowed to take shower on some days, cannot enter the kitchen, cannot enter the
(1). Menstrual Health in India | Country Landscape Analysis,
https://menstrualhygieneday.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/FSG-Menstrual-Health-Landscape_India.pdf

(2).Spot On! Improving Menstrual Health and Hygiene in India. Report. Dasra, Kiawah Trust, and USAID, 2014. temple, cannot touch some foods and in some areas she is also banned from entering her own home as she is considered impure. She is left questioning everything with no one to answer them and with no explanation as to why this is happening to her or why she is being treated like an outcast in her own home.
In situations where the access to pads is less and less, the onset of COVID-19, created havoc for women all over India. Complete lockdown in the whole State left women unsure of their menstrual hygiene. When there was no access to sanitary napkins, medicines, disposable menstrual cups or tampons, the times of apprehension was seen. Although the essential services were allowed, not all women are financially stable to buy the expensive pads or pay for the extra charges of delivery. Most women for their households buy single pads or the cheapest ones according to their needs and these times have only crushed their soul.
Menstrual hygiene is the most concerning of all the issues in India, to break the taboo a Delhi based NGO called Hamari Pahchan, took the initiative to provide underprivileged women with sanitary napkins in various parts of South-Delhi. This initiative was known as the “Sukhad” initiative and since its commencement has received enormous positive responses from various sects of the society. Currently under this project we have aimed to provide these women with “sanitary kits” called “sukhad kits” which includes pads, soaps and envelopes to dispose of the pads. Our aim is to provide at least 50,000 sukhad kits to underprivileged women, promote sanitary conditions and menstruation hygiene . We are not only providing the means of making 3 them strong in tough times but are also educating them the correct way of taking care of them themselves during the tough times. We are giving basic education to girls and women regarding their personal hygiene and of those near them. Our tagline for the project,” break the taboo” speaks more just like the act itself does.
The importance of menstrual hygiene not only promotes self awareness but is also a precursor to mental health. All of these when taken care of, is one woman strong for herself. One strong woman tagging others along with her to create a change. So, let’s speak freely of periods,
support those who are working for the cause and keep the line growing.
By: Priyanka Walter
Date: 24th July,2020. (3). Sukhad project, https://www.hamaripahchan.org/donations/sukhad-project/

Menstrual Hygiene of Sex Workers in India

Whether the role of sex workers in a democratic state is morally abhorrent or not is the question of perspective which cannot be changed by the statement of facts from me or any other person. What I am here is to provoke a thought, whether the sex workers in India pertaining to their role in the development in the society can or cannot be provided correct menstrual hygiene and respect, which in retrospect should not even be a question to begin with.
As per a research conducted in India, data from 138 studies involving 193 subpopulations and 97,070 girls were extracted. In 88 studies, half of the girls reported being informed prior to menarche. Commercial pad use was more common among urban than rural girls, with use increasing over time. Inappropriate disposal was common. Menstruating girls experienced many restrictions, especially for religious activities. A quarter reported missing school during periods. A lower prevalence of absenteeism was associated with higher commercial pad use in univariate but not in multivariate analysis when adjusted for region. Approximately a third of girls changed their absorbents in school facilities. Half of the girls’ homes had a toilet.
The data is staggering for a nation which claims to have huge reach within the youth. The idea is not to criticise the authority but to start the conversation regarding sensitive issues for women all over India. United Nations (UN) agencies and Commissions have understood and articulated sex work as a contractual arrangement where sexual services are negotiated between consenting adults.2 Most women in general face backlash for even talking openly about menstruation in front of friends or family and are termed indecent labels for the same. When the access to basic facilities such as sanitary napkins or toilets are so scarce, it gets difficult to see the light through the end of the tunnel. The social stigma related to sex workers in India makes it tough for them to get

(1). Menstrual hygiene management among adolescent girls in India: a systematic review and meta-analysis, https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/bmjopen/6/3/e010290.full.pdf?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=9fa24ac3716ee08503ffd74157c884247b72027f-1595832382-0-AT_O1goWQa_MlKGXoCTMNwr0TPLF0s2MgXLpl9hOaGtj5E5FPqrqO5DG6UL17dfOf7LR7BkBfSk0WS9M5q4KtrZlxtU65oU6OTT36zpPWori0bTKu52T737zWW8IJqIvEmjCk2wtUWag9x5MSNvA8AGKm-_eKo4C1YUV4clOvUIP8zRyPRqfQHKfQtOl8DReUd4885fpfSlgt_4_e-6A3GCJv_nEQS-trKMfFtZRpCUI7LFo0yqTwIA0S_7zv6KgIx087_lGG0UzGbFN_mOz0YRPyOf27w5dTotT7WVOySBB2RX_ZxdktmXaKgzXomJZqQ

(2). UNAIDS (2002) Technical Update Sex Work and HIV/AIDS, p3. UNAIDS (2009) Guidance note on HIV and sex work. access to sanitary napkins or hospitality from the people. The sex workers are very much prone to sexually transmitted diseases and other vaginal infections and are more prone to fatal diseases due to the conditions they live in which are sanitary to say the least. According to Ministry of Women and Child Development , there are almost three million female sex workers in India, most of those who are coerced into this profession. Half of girls and women are trafficked from other states and are forced to work as a prostitute. Some are minors, some are misinformed, some are married, some are widowed but what they all have in common is their living conditions and lack of sanitary conditions. The privilege to buy pads openly is considered a taboo and for those who are sex workers is a luxury, they have to use old clothes or cotton rolled up and even dry leaves. The condition of the majority of women in India is worse to say the least and the same is magnified twice for the brothel workers who are marginalized and criticised for their profession. There have been many youtubers who have gone to talk to such women who are working in the brothels, many of those who have aspirations, dreams but have given up their hope for a normal life. The pandemic has brought up the unemployment rate in our country, single parents who are women, female migrant workers, sex workers, etc. were and still are not having acess to sanitary napkins and other sanitary products for use nor are they having enough money. Even if they manage to collect enough money for one month’s supply of pads, they will have to save again to buy it the next month. Now you must think, why save money for that? Right? Because sanitary napkins are very expensive! Surprisingly, women have to pay such high rates for good quality sanitary napkins for a natural phenomenon which happens every month. Living in a country which is culturally rich and feeds on the religious sentiments of its citizens, topics such as menstruation and sanitary conditions of women are not the topics of priority for our welfare state or our conservative society where the word “pad” is hushed at the chemist. So why should you and I talk about these issues? Because it is what is supposed to happen. We must start a conversation for the reasons not to talk about it. Period! It is a normal reaction to talk about issues which are rooted so deep into our society, the solution is to talk them through and

(3). https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/AR2008-09.pdf
through with these women until a solution comes up, which will not only help the society at par but will also be feasible for them. Hamari Pahchan NGO, based in Delhi, took the initiative to provide underprivileged women with sanitary napkins in various parts of South-Delhi. This initiative was known as the “Sukhad” initiative and since its commencement has received enormous positive responses from various sects of the society. Currently under this project we have aimed to provide these women with “sanitary kits” called “sukhad kits” which includes pads, soaps and envelopes to dispose of the pads. Our aim is to provide at least 50,000 sukhad kits to underprivileged women, promote sanitary conditions and menstruation hygiene. We are also providing the sex workers in parts of Delhi with sanitary napkins and the Sukhad kit, plus, are also informing them about correct sanitation practices which must be followed.
There are many social organizations which are working for the upliftment of women and sex workers specifically, there are some governmental schemes as well, most of which looks very appealing to on paper. The plight of these women often go unnoticed, in the sea of other issues of minute importance. Until there is change in the mindset of people towards sex workers, no amount of social policies can uplift them truly, to change this mindset, a conversation needs to begin. Until there is a change in vision of looking at sex workers as normal woman, there is not going to be true change within the society.
Name: Priyanka Walter
Date: 28/07/2020