84% women say lockdown restricted their access to menstrual products: Survey
Access to menstrual hygiene products has been affected by the lockdown for young girls and women who depend on schools and community places, a survey has found. The survey, conducted by the Menstrual Health Alliance India (MHAI), has also found that 84% women who responded said that there is either no or severely restricted access to menstrual products in communities that they work in, especially for sanitary pads.
As per the survey, whose findings were released by Dasra and Change.org, consumers of 62% of the organisations manufacturing menstrual hygiene products that took part in the survey faced problems in accessing products from their regular channels, while 22% reported no access to menstrual products at all.
In the rapid survey, 67 organisations participated, and 45 were from India, 16 from the African region and six from other countries. Fifty four of the organisations were rural and 49 were urban. The survey was conducted in April and 94% respondents were either in lockdown or state mandated social distancing at the time of the survey.
Disposable pads were manufactured or distributed by 23 organisations, 28 made reusable pads, while 13 made menstrual cups. Sixty five percent of their clientele or beneficiaries were adolescent girls, 59% were women, 27% were post-partum women, while 34% had disabilities.
This meant that more women were forced to use clothes, and the lack of knowledge of hygiene norms was a risk. “Most adolescent girls from low-income households depended on school-based supply in Government schools. Given that schools have been closed since the lockdown, they have started using cloth pads. We need to look at how reusable product choices like cloth pads and menstrual cups can be promoted with information on maintenance of hygiene in order to build resilient MHM practices,” Tanya Mahajan of the MHAI said.
The survey found that only 25% were fully operational, and 50% partially. “Very few units had raw material availability for the next 3 months – only 25% had availability and 40% had partial availability,” the report said. Of these, only 24% were in a position to service demand from their community while 46% were able to do so partially.
Road transport restrictions were the main roadblock, and with new production norms expecting a focus on a limited capacity, production was affected in many places. In addition to that, the limited availability of migrant labours was a factor. Import restrictions, especially for menstrual cups imported from facilities in Europe to ensure quality benchmarks, was challenging. “Raw materials for disposable sanitary pads, particularly wood pulp, have become challenging,” the report said.