To provide a safe menstrual hygiene, the Punjab government is set to expand the Centre's scheme of providing free sanitary napkins at subsidised rates every month to adolescent girl students at all secondary and higher secondary government schools besides to out-of-school girls.
The state government has already invited e-tenders from the manufacturing companies for supplying 15 lakh sanitary napkins in the state. These will be distributed to government school girl students from classes 6 to 12 and out-of-school adolescent girls.
The initiative under the central scheme for promotion of menstrual hygiene aims at ensuring that adolescent girls have adequate information about menstrual hygiene and the use of sanitary napkins, and that high-quality and safe products are made available to them. The scheme has been launched as part of the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (ARSH) component.
As a pilot project, the scheme covered five districts of Punjab wherein supply of sanitary napkins was envisaged. These are Moga, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Bathinda and Faridkot.
These napkins are being sold to adolescent girls at Rs. 6 per pack of six napkins by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs). From the sale proceeds, the ASHA gets an incentive amount of Re 1 per pack, besides getting a free pack of sanitary napkins per month and the balance of Rs. 5 is to be deposited in the district treasury.
Husan Lal, managing director, Punjab Health Systems Corporation, said about 12 lakh napkins had already been distributed by ASHA workers.
"The contract was given to Hindustan Latex Limited Company. The quality of the napkins was not found up to the mark. So the state government had decided to fill the gap and provide better napkins by allocating the budget. We will add the amount to the central scheme fund of Rs. 6 per packet as per requirement to provide better-quality napkins," he added.
"ASHA workers will visit homes in their area and give a pack of six napkins for Rs. 6 whereas its market price is around Rs. 80," he added. The distribution would start across the state within a month, he added.
The Centre started the scheme as limited access to safe sanitary products and facilities is believed to be one of the reasons for constrained school attendance, high dropout rates and ill-health due to infection, according to the studies conducted.