NEW: 'Teenage Girls are Not Comfortable Buying Pads from Medical Stores'
Q. What are the various menstrual health services delivered in your village and district? Are these services being rendered by the local, state, or Union governments? What is your role in the process?
Anganwadi Worker (AWW): The Madhya Pradesh Women and Child Development Department had launched the Udita Yojana in 2016, for promoting health. Although the scheme is technically operational, Udita Corners do not receive any sanitary pads from the government for free distribution. The corners buy pads from the market and supply them in the village at a price, to ensure availability to women and adolescent girls. [The Accountability Initiative has not independently verified the claim of non-availability of pads.]
Q. Do you think community members are interested in discussing menstrual hygiene? Are women and especially adolescent girls interested in understanding menstrual hygiene from you?
AWW: When women come to the Anganwadi Centre for vaccination, they talk about their problems related to menstruation. We also encourage them to speak out if they are facing any difficulties during periods. We make it a point to include conversations about menstruation whenever there is an event at the centre. I think women talk more openly about menstruation now.
But teenage girls are not comfortable buying sanitary pads from a medical store, as they are mostly operated by men. That's why we give pads at the Anganwadi Centre itself, so they don't stop using pads out of shame.
Q. Have you received any training on menstrual health?
AWW: There is no specialised training but we receive information about the same from ANM and our supervisor. If we have any questions, we try to clarify the same with them.
Q. Are you aware of whether your Gram Panchayat prioritises menstrual health services during its planning? What existing infrastructure can be improved for menstrual health delivery?
AWW: Menstrual health is mostly not discussed in the health committee or Panchayat planning. Because men are also involved in these meetings, women do not want to raise this issue. Women are hesitant to talk about periods in front of other women, so to expect them to keep the matter in front of men is a far stretch.
Q. Are you eligible for menstrual health services by the government too?
AWW: No facilities are provided by the government for us in this regard. Even our salaries do not come every month and other times we do not receive the entire amount.
This interview was conducted with an Anganwadi Worker in Madhya Pradesh in Hindi on 12 April 2023, and has been translated.
Image Credits: Nandita Singh | ThePrint