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Bahini Scheme

  • 14 Mar 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Bahini Scheme, Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram

For Mains: State of Menstrual Health in India, Issues related to women, Gender.

Why in News?

The Sikkim government is set to announce a scheme (Bahini) to install vending machines to provide free sanitary pads.

  • This is the first time that a state government has taken a decision to cover all girls studying in Classes 9-12.

What is the Purpose of the Scheme?

  • It aims at providing “100% access to free and safe sanitary pads to secondary and senior secondary school going girls”.
  • It is also aimed to curb dropout of girls from schools and raise awareness about menstrual hygiene.
  • The scheme is based on an experiment the state government initiated in 2018, in collaboration with Sulabh International, where vending machines were installed in some schools.
    • Sulabh International is an India-based social service organization that works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education.

What is the State of Menstrual Health in India?

  • Data:
    • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16, India has over 355 million menstruating women.
      • However, only 36% of women were reported as using sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced.
    • The percentage of women using menstrual products did improve significantly across the country, especially in Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, West Bengal and Bihar, as estimated in the first phase of the recently released NFHS-5.
      • Despite this, menstrual health remains a low-priority issue in India marred with taboos, shame, misinformation, and poor access to sanitation facilities and menstrual products.
  • Issues:
    • Societal restrictions:
      • Societal restrictions during menstruation violate women’s right to health, equality and privacy.
        • Several anecdotes reveal that women and girls are kept in isolation, not allowed to enter religious places or kitchens, play outside or even go to schools during menstruation.
    • School Drop out:
      • A survey conducted under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) in 2018-19 reported that more than one-fourth of total girls enrolled in class VI-VIII drop out of school as soon as they hit puberty.
    • Inconsistent Access to Education:
      • The experience of menstruation for young girls is even more difficult due to inconsistent access to education on menstrual health and puberty.
    • Reduced Participation in the Workforce:
      • Many employers see menstruating women as a problem as they associate periods with inefficiency in work and reduced participation in the workforce.
        • There are anecdotal examples of corporate workplaces showing insensitivity towards menstruating women fearing loss of productivity.
  • Related Initiatives:
    • Central Government:
      • In 2015, the central government introduced the national guidelines on menstrual hygiene management.
      • Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (2011) and the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (in 2014), have been launched to promote menstrual hygiene amongst adolescent girls in the age group of 10 to 19.
      • Through the Suvidha initiative, the government distributed more than 5 crore brand sanitary pads at Re 1 from 6,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
    • State Government:
      • Apart from central government schemes, state governments have also implemented programmes to distribute sanitary pads in schools in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.
      • The Bihar government provides Rs 300 under the Kishori Swasthya Yojana to adolescent girls to buy sanitary pads.

Menstrual Hygiene Scheme

  • The major objectives of the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme is:
    • To increase awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
    • To increase access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas.
    • To ensure safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.

Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram

  • The major objectives objective of RKSK is:
    • Improve Sexual and Reproductive Health
    • Enhance Mental Health
    • Prevent Injuries and violence
    • Prevent substance misuse

Way Forward

  • The need of the hour is to focus on a strategy that converges key departments in the government — health, education, women and child development and rural development among others — and improves accountability towards issues related to menstrual health management.
  • The way forward lies in a community-based approach in which local influencers and decision-makers are sensitised to champion the issue and behavioural change campaigns targeted at both men and women are deployed to dispel myths and misconceptions.
  • There is also a huge opportunity to create public-private collaborations to drive such campaigns and increase access to affordable menstrual hygiene products for rural and semi-urban regions.
    • This could be done through the installation of sanitary pad vending machines at key public places, workplaces, schools, and colleges, as well as Anganwadi centres or childcare centres for rural areas.
  • It is crucial to acknowledge that menstrual health is not just a women’s issue, but a matter of human rights.

Source: IE

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