From December 1, the Andhra Pradesh government plans on taking steps to provide school girls with sanitary pads. On Tuesday, a review meeting was held with officials from different sectors in the state where they discussed the implementation of the same.
Chief Secretary Chandra Puneta sat with the members from the Department of Education, Department of Rural Development and the Civil Supplies Department to discuss the issue.
Chandra Puneta said in a statement, “The government has decided to provide sanitary napkins free of cost to school girls and at the concession price to women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in order to prevent young girls from not being able to attend school during the time of menstruation as well as to maintain a healthy reproductive system among older women."
Roughly around 68% of women in the state falling in the age gap of 15 to 24 do not have proper access to sanitary pads. Chandra said that this initiative by the government is to ensure that all these women have easier access to sanitary napkins as well as to bring more awareness about reproductive health to women.
He further added that the government has identified women in the reproductive age group as the target for the scheme. The government has supposedly taken all steps to distribute napkins from December 1 to around 10 lakh school girls. The pads will be distributed free of cost to all government schools every month.
Furthermore, pads will be sold at the concessional cost of Rs 1 at all ration-shops and anganwadi centres.
The government has already released Rs 100 crores to Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) and the state Civil Supplies Department was asked to call for tenders and make sure that sanitary napkins were arranged through branded companies.
In the meeting the Chief Secretary has also expressed the concern regarding the number of girls under the age of 18 being forced to get married in the state, and asked SERP, Child and Women’s Welfare Department, and the Department of Education to work against child marriages.
H Arun Kumar, Women and Child Welfare Dept In-charge secretary stated that the sanitary napkin scheme will benefit as many as 20 lakh girls and women.
Arun Kumar said that all the organisations involved would work towards sensitizing women and girls about proper menstrual hygiene and disposal of sanitary pads.
While these efforts have been lauded, some people have pointed out that this must be a continuous measure.
“It’s definitely a good effort taken up by the government, however, they should ensure that the implementation is done properly so that girls do benefit,” says C Bhanuja of the Rural and Environmental Development Society (REDS) NGO from Anantapur, “If you look at just statistics, you might confer that AP and even Anantapur schools have clean facilities and toilets, but the reality is far from that. It is good to introduce such a program, but they should ensure that it continues.”’
She also noted that similar efforts had been taken up in the past, but were abandoned midway.
“Young girls also need a female teacher they can approach, a counsellor of sorts, who should be there, for them to approach regarding any issues, whether it is regarding menstrual hygiene or even something as serious as to address a sexual harassment complaint,” she says.
Earlier this year, officials in Hyderabad took efforts to introduce sanitary pad disposal systems in government schools as well as other initiatives to encourage young girls to not drop out of school due to the lack of facilities during their cycles.