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NEW: 'We are Distributing Free Sanitary Pads to Women'

Updated: May 3

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): At present, we are distributing free pads to women up to 45 years of age under the state's Udaan scheme. In the past year, we received an inventory for eight months and then another for four months. One packet of sanitary pads is distributed to women for a month. The service delivery is tied to Aadhaar and Jan-Aadhaar of the citizens and its entry is done on the Udaan app. In this process, we are the ones who deliver these services to women and give them health-related information.

Q. At what level does conversation about menstruation usually take place? Are any kind of community-based events organised to discuss menstrual hygiene?

AWW: A programme regarding the same is run in government schools near us. It has happened two or three times ever since the launch of the scheme. Senior officials from concerned department are also present for the same. During the event, the teachers at school and other officials discuss menstrual health. The women and girls of the village participate in it.

Q. Do you think community members are interested in discussing menstrual hygiene? Who all are usually involved? Are women and especially adolescent girls interested in understanding menstrual hygiene from you?

AWW: When discussions are held, women and girls participate. Some women are already using sanitary pads, and we also try to explain about menstrual hygiene. When women and girls come to collect pads, these conversations happen.

Still, women and girls are not able to talk with ease about menstruation despite improvements over time. When girls begin to menstruate, they get nervous and are not able to talk openly about it. During a discussion we were told that a girl, who got her period for the first time in her school, locked herself in the toilet and did not come out even after the school was over. Later, when a teacher found her, she talked to the girl about menstruation and counselled her, after which she went home.

Q. Have you received any training on menstrual health?

AWW: I haven't had any training but ASHAs receive the same. Still, I know that it is very important to ensure hygienic practices during periods and that dirty cloth should not be used. And pads should not be thrown here and there. They should be put in the ground but it doesn't happen. Everyone throws it away.

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: I have no idea about this. In the Panchayat, attention is paid to the construction of buildings and roads. Not everyone is able to attend the Panchayat meetings held twice a month. There are no conversations about sanitation, not even about littering. People are also least interested in it. There are no toilets in my Anganwadi Centre but, thankfully, there are toilets and water facilities in people’s houses.

Q. Are you eligible for menstrual health services by the government too?

AWW: Yes, we can also avail the service by verifying our Aadhaar and Jan Aadhaar.

This interview was conducted with an Anganwadi Worker in Rajasthan in Hindi on 30 March 2023, and has been translated.

Image Credits: Varun Gaba

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