Many government schools in Bengaluru lack vending machines for sanitary napkins, and some do not receive pads to give to students in need.
Bengaluru: It is still a ‘not-available’ situation for sanitary napkins at many government schools in Bengaluru as there are no vending machines installed in school premises. And in some of them, even the distribution of sanitary napkins to students isn’t aided by the government.
“We buy sanitary napkins from our own pockets and give it to children” said Jayachitra, a teacher at Koramangala Kannada and Tamil Higher Primary School. “There are guidelines from BBMP, to keep the washrooms clean and to inculcate hygiene habits in students. They have also installed dustbins and asked us to make girls wrap sanitary napkins and then throw it in the dustbins, but no vending machines or sanitary napkins are provided.” she added. On asking Vijayalaxmi, an eighth-grade student whether she gets any sanitary napkins from schools, she answered, “No, parents give us.”
The Central turned State scheme ‘Suchi’ introduced in the year 2013-14, aims at increasing awareness about menstrual hygiene. Under this scheme, the Karnataka government is supposed to ensure distribution of sanitary napkins to every government aided school across the state. The scheme was put to a halt during the pandemic till the Karnataka high court ordered a re-start in 2021. Still, this scheme, with an annual budget of Rs. 47 crore, isn’t seen being implemented well at the grass-root level. However, BBMP said that they have not been receiving any funds or guidelines regarding the scheme.
Unavailability of sanitary napkins often makes women wear pads for a longer period of time. Dr.Medhavi Agarwal, a practicing gynecologist and MD in Community Medicine, calls it a red flag. “If you are wearing pads for too long, it becomes a very good ground for the bacteria to grow, especially fungal infection, that is very common, as it grows in moisture” she said. “When we are not taking proper sanitary measures, the infection can reach up to the uterus, leading to infertility. It can also cause excessive bleeding that leads to multiple disorders. What we have observed and what data shows is that women who suffer from menstrual unhygienic conditions, they face complications in pregnancy, the risk is very high. In around 1% of such cases, death is due to poor menstrual hygiene. It can cause dysmenorrhoea, sepsis (infection) and can also lead to permanent scarring of the uterus.”
On further asking about what things should be kept in mind while installing sanitary napkin vending machines, she commented that the quality of pads needs to ensured, and most importantly, it should be affordable to all.