Covid-19: Delhi schools shut, distribution of sanitary napkins stops
Sixteen-year-old Shagun — a resident of Delhi’s largest unauthorised colony, Sangam Vihar — has been using cloth pieces instead of sanitary napkins during her monthly cycle for the last couple of months.
The Class 9 student at government girls senior secondary school in Sangam Vihar used to get a packet of sanitary napkins every month from her school.
But with her school shut for more than a month due to the ongoing lockdown in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, the distribution of sanitary napkins too have come to a halt.
Daughter of a mason and a domestic help, Shagun said that her family is not being able to makes ends meet due to the lockdown. “My father has not earned a penny in the last one month . We are collecting food twice a day from a food distribution centre at a nearby school. We can’t even think about buying sanitary pads at the moment. I had received my last packet of pads from the school in February. Now, me and my sister (14) are both using cloth pieces. It’s really uncomfortable, but we can’t help,” she said.
Savita Devi, vice chairperson of the management committee at Shagun’s school, said that majority of the girls studying in their school in Sangam Vihar are dependent on the sanitary napkins they receive from them. “Even during normal days, they cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins. It’s impossible for them to go buy them now, as a pandemic rages on in the city,” she said.
The female students of classes 6 to 12, studying in government schools across the country, are given sanitary napkin packets every month under the Central government’s Kishori Shakti Yojna. Every month more than 8 lakh girls benefit from the scheme in Delhi government schools.
However, distribution has been disrupted these days as schools are closed due to the lockdown, adding to the woes of students, a majority of who come from lower income group families.
Rashmi, 17, a student at a government school in east Delhi’s New Kondli area, said that her mother has stitched sanitary napkins using cloth and cotton at home for her and her two sisters. “People like us who can’t afford to buy sanitary napkins have to make alternate arrangements. I hope my school can provide some by next month. It will become really difficult for us to survive without pads, she said, adding that her school last distributed sanitary napkins in February.
The Class 10 student said that her father, an e-rikshaw driver and sole bread earner of the family of five, has not been able to go to work due to the lockdown since last month. “We can sacrifice other things, but periods don’t stop because of a pandemic,” she said.
Several government school teachers said they have been receiving distress calls from their students. Arti Qanungo, a teacher at a government school in Shakarpur, said that some of her students have switched to using cloth in the absence of sanitary pads. “Some others said that they have stock for this month. But the situation will become really difficult for them now that the schools are not going to re-open anytime soon,” she said.
Binay Bhushan, Director of the Directorate of Education (DoE), said that the department will discuss the matter with schools. “The situation is very difficult these days. It will be difficult to distribute sanitary pads from schools and we do no have any mechanism for home delivery. We will have to come up with an alternative,” he said.
Dr Surbhi Singh, a gynaecologist and founder of Sachhi Saheli — an NGO that works on menstrual health with Delhi government in its schools — said they are also going to discuss the matter with government officials. “The only solution is that schools should provide sanitary napkins at the food distribution centres and the government school students can pick them from there. Our NGO has also begun to distribute packets of sanitary pads at these centres now,” she said.