Odisha: Sanitary napkins making inroads as important part of relief kits

Bhubaneswar: Odisha is no stranger to cyclones. While the state government, voluntary bodies and individuals continue their efforts to restore normalcy post cyclone Fani, efforts are on to ensure inclusion of sanitary napkins in relief kits in order to promote acceptability of the product as an important relief item during emergencies.

Chandan Desai of Terre des hommes, a Germany based humanitarian organisation which recently organised relief distribution in one of the urban slums of Bhubaneswar ravaged by the strong winds informed that inclusion of sanitary napkins is very important considering the needs of young teens, adolescent girls and women in a post-disaster setting.

“It is also a way to send across the message of gender equality in relief operations,”said Sony from TDH.

Natural disasters can leave women and girls without access to clean and safe sanitary products mostly due to the lack of availability of these products, or the lack of money to buy them. As a result, women and girls are forced to use unhygenic methods to manage their periods leading to dangerous infections.

While food and clothes had remained the sole part of relief kits till the recent past, finding sanitary napkins inside relief kits is leaving a mixed response among the receivers.

Sumati Digi, a middle aged beneficiary who received a relief kit with a packet of menstrual pad inside it was unable to make out its utility. “We explained it to her. She was shy at first but admitted that this was extremely important for every woman,” said Sunil Ghadei, one of the volunteers at distribution site.

“It is often a shock for male members of the family to find sanitary napkins inside the kit. However our effort is to send a message to families that mensturation is an important biological part of a womens life and nothing to shy away from. They must understand that good health and hygiene are equally important as food and clothes,” said Ghadei.

Experts working in disaster management programmes recalled how relief kits 20 years ago used to contain only dry food, cloths matchsticks, candles etc. About a decade back, solar torches were included in restoration kits. They became an instant hit in many parts of the state plagued by frequent power cuts.

Today, relief kits usually consist items such as mugs, education materials for kids, utensils, tarpaulin, baby food, torch lights, mosquito nets, soaps and water purifying tablets.

“Menstruation is a taboo in our culture , many women are reluctant to talk about it especially young girls hesitate to share their trouble. It is fortunate that we received the sanitary pads,”said Uravasi , a young adolescent.


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