The pan-India lockdown imposed to avoid any further community transfer of the deadly Coronavirus has brought about many challenges among various communities in the country. Multiple media platforms share with us the problems that some of the communities are facing during the current crisis.
Stories about starvation, agony make headlines every day along with the figures of infection, fatality, etc. These stories capture our imagination, discussion, and debate across digital platforms, and a lot is being done to help the families in need.
While this is being done, the various issues that the adolescents face, especially the girls, take a back seat. This age group faces issues like not getting access to the required nutritional requirements for development, educational requirement, and their rights on sexual and reproductive health. Amidst the present scenario, it is more palpable. With all local shops closed and minimal or no supply of sanitary napkins in government health centers, adolescent girls across the intervention areas of Bal Raksha Bharat, almost did not have access to sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycle to maintain menstrual hygiene.
Girls like Ramghani, Pinky, Priyanka in Rajasthan, Neetu, or Rinki in Bihar or even Jhulima, Shalini in Odisha, all are facing this issue. With the shortage of sanitary napkins, these brave girls are not only staying at home to stay away from the virus but have engaged themselves in preparing cloth made sanitary napkins at home to maintain menstrual hygiene.
A few years back, girls across these areas, used clothes, during menstruation. They were not even aware of the importance of maintaining menstrual hygiene. Bal Raksha Bharat, through its intervention under Marriage No Child’s Play (MNCP), trained adolescent and young girls of such remote geographies on awareness on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) issues. These girls were also given the necessary skills on how to prepare home-made sanitary pads that would help maintain their menstrual hygiene. Many girls before lockdown used home-made sanitary pads, and this came handy during the present scenario for many girls like Pinky. Being able to make a sanitary pad at home has given these girls a dignified life amidst these tough times.
“We have always used clothes during those days, but when I find my daughter using these home-made cloth napkins, I feel very proud,” said Neetu’s mother from our intervention area in Gaya.
Girls who don’t know the technique of stitching the cloth napkins are contacting their peers to learn. Many girls are now using sewing machines to prepare the home-made sanitary napkins. Girls are also providing home-made sanitary pads to other female members in their locality, thus ensuring the menstrual hygiene for every female during this uncertain time.
The zeal to lead a dignified and confident life that using the skill that they have learned during the life skills education sessions have motivated them to surge forward. During the nation-wide lockdown when the government system has also lagged in ensuring the distribution of sanitary napkins as an ‘essential’ item, these She-roes have come forward to maintain a dignified and healthy life for their community at large.