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How has the Coronavirus changed menstrual sanitation in Rural India?

There is no doubt that the times today is one of the most critical and needy times of the decade. The situation in this pandemic has become challenging and not only people are suffering through mental agony but the pressure to meet the basic needs is also devastating.

The world is under the effect of corona and every day is a challenge for every human life. In a country like India where most of the population is dependent on primary activities and small scale industries, this pandemic situation is becoming more about economy and status than health and cleanliness. 

COVID-19 has been spreading throughout the country at an unstoppable rate. The more measures are being taken to control the spread; more is the virus finding new ways to take control. The not only economy of our country, but even the mental health of the civilians is also on stake. Lockdown being extended has created a crisis at every level of society.

However the condition of the coronavirus in India is better as compared to most of the western countries, the financial and mental status of the people in our country.

How corona spreads? 

Corona has an impact on the overall population but there are certain age groups likely more prone to the infection due to the lesser immunity. Age groups more than 60 and less than 10 years of age are more at risk as they have a weaker immune system as compared to a full-grown adult. In India, the majority of the COVID-19 patients are in the older age group which enhances the need of taking care of the older generation much more than ever. 

One of the main reasons how the virus is known to spread is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is suffering through corona coughs or sneezes. If any person who is suffering from the disease shakes hands, hugs, or coughs or sneezes without masks chances are that the lying objects can have the virus and it can be spread around. The general symptoms include dry coughing and high fever; however some people only experience mild symptoms.

Why are people suffering in Corona?   

Most of the country is under the effect of Corona and the health of people is to be the most taken care of. There are different reasons why people are suffering from this disease.

Also, not only the physical state of the country is being shaken, but the economic well being of the country has also come to a point where support from government is of utmost necessity. Our country has come up and risen as a power to support the nation in every aspect and taking good care of the citizens. This fight against corona is against a virus, and not a human being which can be won using weapons. We have an intruder in our midst that cannot be seen, touched, or killed. It is of utmost importance to understand that the government, the nation will only be able to eradicate this virus out if every single human is following and supporting the norms and rules being given to the citizens.

People are aware of the situation and are trying to do things like avoiding social gatherings, maintaining social distancing, sanitization, online payments, shopping, etc. However there is a major part of the population that still goes to work, cannot opt for virtual payment mode, and migrate from one place to another in search of a living. This is one of the biggest reasons why the chances for the rise in the spread of COVID-19 are increasing day by day. 

Which class is suffering and impacted the most because of COVID-19? 

The financial crisis for people is increasing day by day especially when it comes to the lower and middle sections of the society. In the lower class, people live a simple life and survive on daily wages. In this situation of crisis, a large portion of the society is not able to earn a penny.

People such as vegetable vendors, fast food stalls, and home-maids are staying at home and not going to their workplace which is creating havoc in their daily routine. Due to the lack of savings as well as resources, people are choosing to go to their jobs in this phase too. However, it is very important to understand the importance of staying back at home in the current scenario to stop the virus from spreading.

Government agencies and sectors are providing essential food items and commodities such as vegetables, oil, sugar, detergent under various schemes to support them. This time has given us enough time to understand the importance of small scale industries which may be able to support the daily needs of people in times like this. This is not a usual phenomenon, but considering the impact, it has led to the overall economy, and the financial chaos which has been created needs to be well taken care of and prepare for everything and anything that comes to us in the future. Setting up of more small scale industries in rural areas can be a promising solution and help in building a powerful economy in small districts. 

Lack of female sanitation and care in the Pandemic 

The social impact on female health has been considerably unjust due to the restrictions being imposed on the population. Female menstrual hygiene is an underrated topic and is hardly discussed in any forum, despite being the most sensitive and hygienic requirements of female life, these essentials are not a part of any help package being provided on government scales.

Recent studies have shown that there is a large women population of rural India which is not able to afford sanitary pads and products and hence end up using cotton cloths and sometimes napkins in their periods. Some women depend on the volunteers for the supply of pads and what if they are also not able to provide it is a point that needs discussion and solution. There are many NGO’s supporting the female needs and bringing this topic in the front to make sure that this becomes an essentially integrated and accepted commodity. Help lines have reported calls from females requesting pads as essential items. Still, there is a major portion of society that does not include female menstrual requirements to be an important part of the overall family needs.

In India, the lockdown and its extension impacts access to menstrual hygiene products and therefore the ability to take care of hygiene during periods in privacy and with dignity for millions of girls and women.

In relief camps and shelters where food and water are of primary concern and in quarantine and isolation facilities where testing kits and essential medicines are the necessity, menstrual products for women are not considered an essential item.

Limited availability of menstrual hygiene products and the inability to take care of hygiene can affect the health of menstruating girls and women adversely.

  • Menstrual materials are worn for longer than they ought to be, simply to increase the availability of limited stock to affect with restricted mobility, increasing the danger of reproductive tract infections (RTI).

  • Women and girls may use their menstrual products for longer than recommended or address unhygienic alternatives like old cloth or rags.

  • Reusable cloth pads, while an honest alternative, might not be washed and dried thoroughly due to paucity of water and privacy, posing additional risks for infections.

  • In slums, where many are dependent on community toilets, social distancing measures, and mobility restrictions makes it difficult for women and girls to use toilets as frequently as they have to during their period.

Spending an amount of Rs 50 or 100 would not be a big thing but for people in rural areas and a minimum wage it is and it can never be treated as important as food, clothing, and shelter is. Reportedly, female hygiene is not being treated and acknowledged on larger levels considering the impact they create on every female’s life even in the times of COVID-19. 

UNICEF has been actively engaged in anticipating and mitigating the secondary impacts on female menstrual hygiene however in the situation of this global pandemic, it looks nearly avoided in the rural areas as it has always been. According to a survey held in May, 70% of the healthcare workers are females.It has been initiated by various NGO’s that sanitary pads should be included in the welfare packages as well. Sanitary pads being an extra necessity as believed by many people is not included in the necessities of a family which includes females. 

Some volunteers are trying hard to make every woman accessible to this basic need however it is a long way to go. They try to help women in areas where sanitary pads and female hygiene are not considered important and women who cannot come outside due to the societal pressure are given pads by visiting their rooms individually. Also, the situation is challenging as due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are so many units making affordable sanitary pads are not working.

The more manufacturing unit needs to be set up in and around rural areas. This can not only help the women to feel comfortable and confident with their female hygiene but will also help small scale workers to earn money and set up micro-scale enterprises in small districts.

Himalayan hemp has been working to bring these most important topics in a light and ensure access to sanitary products and pads in remote areas to support and empower the women.  

How can we help? 

There is an urgent need of taking care of the sectors and one step towards it can make a big difference. We at Himalayan Hemp understand the need of the hour and support the initiative to take up micro-scale enterprises in small districts and help them grow not only in this time but for a longer run. 

This is a time when the more informed people are, the more are their chances of being in the best health. As responsible citizens, we must protect the nation and play our part. Also, the women in the rural areas where the basic feminine sanitation is generally something not properly taken care of can become a great challenge to deal with. Hence taking up precautionary actions is a must. 

There are innumerable ways, some silent but dangerous, that the global pandemic poses particular harm for women. Let's be sure that menstruation isn't one of them.


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