Sanitary Napkin is a beautiful invention but luxury to few – even in this fast paced world and more and more women need to be given access to this basic healthcare need
By Lipokmenla Ao
A woman’s body is not only the gateway to procreation alone but also accounts for about approximately seven years of continuous bleeding during her lifetime. Yet for years and over centuries, society has shunned the idea of menstruation and labelled it as a topic of ‘shame’ and ‘disgust’.
It’s a topic to be talked about only from under the ‘veil’ or the ‘ghoonghat’! The idea of the menstrual cycle, which in itself represents a parallel ‘life cycle’ – has been considered taboo by some religions as well owing to traditions being followed in several parts of the world. But the moot point is that this ‘taboo’ needs to be celebrated as an idea of femininity. It is the reason why women will always be superior to men. They have the gift of procreation for precisely this reason.
Menstruation, in reality though, is often considered dirty, where even basic rights are denied to a woman. They fall prey to gender discrimination, are made to sleep in separate quarters and not allowed to touch or make food in the family kitchen, even today, in many parts of the world. So deep is this practice that women themselves reinforce these ideas and follow them religiously during their cycles.
Not only that, they are disallowed from entering many religious places if they are menstruating. This scenario has in many ways become misinformation, and makes women doubly vulnerable to exploitation. This not only leads to loss of one’s self esteem, and but is a major reason why most women ‘shy’ away at the mention of periods. A study found that before sanitary pads came into existence, women often used cloth, moss and even wood to combat their monthly flow!
The sanitary napkin in so many ways has given women access to comfort, where worry takes a back seat. It has given the girl child the ability to keep up in school without delaying her academics, and the over worked woman her time and space in the office.
Statistics have shown that more than a third of girls in South Asia miss schools during their periods, but this idea has become less prevalent with the introduction of sanitary napkins. So talks around menstruation should not be met with giggles of embarrassment, but treated as an area of learning.
Although ‘sanitary napkin’ as a word may not sound like the bomb that arrived with the invention of the light bulb or the telephone, it has definitely changed the mental and physical scenario of women around the globe.
It is however staggering that not many women have access to sanitary napkins. An invention that has eased women’s lives considerably is today a luxury. A lifestyle that should be easily harnessed has become a question to many women around the globe, especially in the underdeveloped areas, because of either their lack of knowledge on health, or because of the price.
A study done in India (swachhindia.com) revealed that only 36 per cent (2015-2016) of women used sanitary pads. This estimated that in about three hundred million menstruating women, only about approximately one million had access to sanitary napkins.
Today the world has access to biodegradable sanitary napkins, which have become a forerunner in the area of women healthcare. This idea should be encouraged and expanded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the talk of menstruation must be taken to a higher platform.
Biodegradable napkins should be encouraged so that the disposal of napkins become less threatening, taking into account the millions of menstruating women around the globe every day. By providing environmental friendly napkins, there is an insurance of both ‘health’ and ‘posterity’ which becomes a winning scenario like two sides of the proverbial coin.
Further, the question of ‘free’ basic healthcare is fundamental. It is distressing that sanitary napkins are yet to be made accessible and free. Health should never be considered second in line. This topic must be given enough attention, so that women who cannot afford such ‘luxuries’ of life, be given their due.
Sanitary napkin is one of the world’s most beautiful inventions which has given women a more comfortable life. A life that has made life better for some but also that which has been denied to others. Therefore, easy availability of napkins should be considered in the near future, where no woman is left behind. A girl today is a mother tomorrow. We think for the world when we think of women.
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Lipokmenla Ao is a student with an MA degree in Literature from NEHU, Shillong. She was consecutively published under the National 'Wingword Poetry Prize' (2018-19) for her poems "Home" and "The Solitary Man." Apart from writing poetry, she has a deep love for story writing. She currently works as a freelance writer for an NGO based in Sri Lanka, "WeForUs."