The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Govt. of India, has issued guidelines to all states that sanitary napkins’ provision is part of the essential services and relief supplies and this has to be covered by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) during the outreach services, a top official said during an ASSOCHAM webinar on ‘Menstrual Health & Hygiene Management during COVID-2019’.
“In fact, we have gone a step further and we have said that whenever the ASHA and ANM are going for the outreach activities within the communities, they can actually distribute napkins not for one month but we are trying to support states in giving at least at one time for at least two-three months so that girls do not worry about the next month,” stated Dr Zoya Ali Rizvi, deputy commissioner, Adolescent & Child Health Division, MoHFW during the webinar organised by ASSOCHAM on the occasion of World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Dr Zoya however cleared that such interventions as of now are limited only outside the containment zone as activities inside such zones are bit restricted because of the risk to the healthcare personnel.
“The whole idea is that when a woman comes to the health centre she is not refused for any services be it for sanitary napkins, vaccination, antenatal care or any kind of testing also. That mandate has been shared with states and they are fully online,” she further said.
She also said that support of NGO partners, civil society organisations, CSR funds of private organisations are critical for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and also help strengthen, supplement government programs in this field.
However, she urged the private sector organisations to keep the government in loop whenever they are working in any state with an agency and must involve district administration. “It is always good to have government on your side because they can further support you when you are going out in the field and you can have increased access to government schools, anganwadis, panchayati houses.”
Noting that government has to look at some kind of an ongoing intervention which is sustainable, can tackle both the stigma and provision of safe menstrual hygiene practices, Dr Zoya informed, “We are also promoting e-commerce platforms, most of our procurement at state level is also taking part through e-commerce platforms so that smaller and smaller and medium level enterprises are enrolling into that so no couple of companies have the monopoly and ensure that more and more people invest their money, time and energy into MHM.”
She further said that various Ministries are working towards ensuring good and adequate MHM in their own spheres of activities. “MoHFW along with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) is working in tandem in their own fields.”
Talking about the budgetary allocation, she informed: “In MoHFW, the budgetary allocation for procurement of sanitary napkins has gone up gradually, last year we gave about Rs 65 crore, this year we are giving more than Rs 64 crore, so states are out there who are procuring in a decentralised fashion sanitary napkins for their own beneficiaries and as the uptake of sanitary napkins’ distribution through the ASHA mechanism, support by the ANM and the medical officers increases, this budgetary allocation and capacity building will increase gradually.”
In her address, Ms Chetna Soni, Category Leader – Feminine Care, P&G Indian sub-continent said “It was great coming together at the ASSOCHAM Menstrual Hygiene Day webinar with stakeholders who are as passionate about ensuring 100 percent menstrual hygiene in India as us. It was a privilege to share with the fraternity our latest movement launched earlier this year, Whisper’s #KeepGirlsInSchool, as well as our new initiative ‘Mobileshaala’- a free phone-based learning platform for girls in need, which includes key subjects including a curated period education module.”
She added, “We were privileged to launch this platform at the ASSOCHAM webinar on the occasion of World Menstrual Hygiene Day. I further want to emphasise that multi-stakeholder partnerships are imperative towards us achieving 100 percent menstrual hygiene in the country. The government, education system, corporates, NGOs, media & entertainment sector each have unique strengths, and we must collaborate towards this common goal.”
In her address during the ASSOCHAM webinar, Ms Pratibha Singh, WASH in institutions specialist, UNICEF impressed upon the need for training frontline workers and staff on handling MHM during emergencies.
Apart from this she also suggested evaluation of what has/has not worked on MHM in the past, during present COVID 19 emergency situations, and the need to encourage locally appropriate and affordable technology solutions.