Providing sanitary napkins at nominal cost to school girls in the tribal-dominated Shahdol division in Madhya Pradesh has significantly improved their attendance.
The district administration had introduced ‘Udita corners’ at 3,377 anganwadis in the division, which cover Umaria, Annupur and Shahdol districts, to disburse low-cost sanitary pads to girls and counsel them on menstrual hygiene. Though the administration is yet to come out with the exact figure, it claims absenteeism in schools and dropout rate of girls in the division saw a decline after the initiative was launched.
Teenagers in the remote areas of MP use threadbare rags as sanitary pads. The embarrassment and the fear of an accident keep many of them away from school for the four or five days of their period each month, which sets a chain reaction in motion. Girls are unable to keep up with school work and are more likely to drop out.
“Earlier I had so much trouble in walking (during periods) that I didn’t know what to do. I missed schools during periods. Talking about this was a taboo, so I could not really tell people how much trouble I am going through because of reused pieces of cloth. When the anganwadi made sanitary pads available, it was a big relief,” said Sapna Kushwaha, a Class 11 student from village Pali in Umaria district.
For 15-year-old Poonam Koal of Anupuur district washing the cloths used during periods was a huge embarrassment. “I had to wash the cloth again and again and look for places to dry it because it should not be seen by anyone. It felt very awkward at times. Also I myself felt so dirty while using it again,” she said, adding that the low cost pads had changed all that.
The Udita corners were developed on the lines of Scheme Udita under which sanitary pad vending machines were installed at a few colleges of Indore, Gwalior and Bhopal to improve their menstrual hygiene. The administration, however, opened Udita corners as they did not have a budget to purchase separate sanitary pad vending machines. Each machine costs Rs15,000.
“We get `900 as contingency fund for anganwadis, so we thought why not we just open our own corners where we can counsel women regarding proper methods of sanitation and give them sanitary napkins at a subsidised cost of `20,” said joint director of women and child department, Shahdol division, Rajesh Mehra.
Drawing inspiration from Shahdol division, so far 11,236 Udita Corners have been opened across MP, including Hoshangabad, Raisen, Rewa and Panna districts.