Wednesday, June 16, 2010

India to begin providing menstrual pads

India's government is going to begin a new program that will provide menstrual pads at a reduced cost. The pads will be sold to teenage girls for as little as 2 cents each. The reason for the government program is because menstruating is often a cause for girls to drop out of school due to social stigmas attached to it.

From Bloomberg, writer Saikat Chatterjee describes the new program.

The government will spend 1.5 billion rupees ($32 million) initially to subsidize the napkins for girls in about 150 of India’s 600 districts, the government said in a statement today. The pads may also encourage menstruating girls to attend school, according to the founder of a New Delhi-based non-profit group.

“The move will help to improve attendance rates in schools, as menses are a primary reason why girl students drop out, because they are embarrassed,” said Anshu Gupta, founder and director of New Delhi-based nonprofit Goonj, which supplies sanitary napkins and clothes to women in villages and slums.

A study by Linda Scott, a professor at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, showed that sanitary napkin distribution reduced girls’ truancy rates in Ghana. The pads would probably have the same effect in India, she said today.

Some menstruating women in India face traditional taboos against entering certain places while menstruating, Gupta said. Also, women or girls who can’t afford to buy pads may use unhygienic substitutes such as old newspapers or jute bags, leading to infections, he said.

Poverty Line

The government program will make a pack of six sanitary napkins available for 1 rupee to girls between 10 and 19 years old who live below the official poverty line. Girls from higher- income families can get the kit for 5 rupees, the statement said.

The government said 30 percent of the 15 million girls targeted are likely to be living below the poverty line. A pack of eight sanitary napkins cost about 50 rupees, or more than $1, in a nation where the World Bank estimates that 456 million people live on less than $1.25 a day.

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