A 24-year-old girl student of University of Hyderabad recently began a signature campaign to highlight the difficulties caused by shortage of sanitary pads on campus, and this has forced the authorities to act. They have constituted an empowered committee to procure sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators in the ladies’ hostel.
It was two months ago that the University had cracked the whip on errant shopkeepers and eateries on campus, accused of selling expired products.
Stores in North complex and South complex were raided and contracts of shops, found guilty of irregularities, were terminated and closed. Shops still continue to remain closed as the process to announce tenders is still underway.
While a few were happy that the errant shopkeepers faced the wrath of the administration for selling expired foods, others were disappointed that they could no longer buy snacks or refreshments in the campus—virtually making it tough for students to live in the 2,000-acre campus. However, not everyone thought about this— Where will girls buy sanitary napkins? Will they have to walk for 3-4kms to buy them? Shouldn’t temporary arrangements be made?
Administration officials were embarrassed to learn that the closure of the shops also had an unintended consequence which no had anticipated.
Sharing her plight, G Anju Rao, a first-year student from MA Sociology, also a NSUI member who initiated the campaign, said that on July 26, when she wanted to purchase sanitary napkins, she could not find any store. “Since there were no stores open, I went to the University Health Centre for it—only to learn that the health centres also don’t have them. I was shocked to learn that the primary health centres don’t have sanitary napkins.”
“Luckily for me, I had a vehicle and I could go out and purchase them. But what about the other students, who don’t have a vehicle”, she fumed.
“Should students walk 3-4kms to buy them. Girls constitute 36.75% of the total students and they were excluded”, she said.
Anju continued, “With the help of my friends, I did a signature campaign and got nearly 340 signs. Following which I gave a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Dean of Students’ Welfare and Chief Warden.”
While others were receptive about my appeal for sanitary napkin vending machines, the VC outrightly said, “The University can't provide anything and everything. When you go to buy chocolate and biscuit, you should also buy napkins, he said, which I couldn’t digest, Anju recalled.
He further continued that a primary health centre’s role is not to provide sanitary napkins. And, that never had the health centre provided them, which was baffling, Anju said.
Notwithstanding his remarks, the meeting was fruitful, as the University made temporary arrangements to buy sanitary napkins in stationery outlets, she said.
Reiterating the views of Anju, another student, Ravali Medari, doing final year Anthropology, said that the students’ union or the administration should have thought about it and made necessary arrangements. In this whole episode, people failed to think about sanitary napkins—which is important for women’s health.
Oishani Mojumdar, a second-year communication student said that the students’ union failed to take this situation into account. “They should have expedited the process of finalising tenders. It is already two months, since there are no snacks or sanitary napkins, available in the campus”, she fumed.
She further said that the vending machines should not just be provided in ladies’ hostel but in other lesser accessible areas as well.
“In Ladies hostel, you can knock anyone’s door and get them. Vending machines should be made available in open spaces like shopping complex and Gops (a food spot)”.
She also rued that there is a general discomfort about discussing menstruation and primary well-being of women.