In a positive development aimed at ensuring menstrual hygiene of women during the annual floods in Assam, the state government has instructed the district administrations to include sanitary napkins in the list of relief items.
The notification issued by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) is being seen as a big win for menstrual health activist Mayuri Bhattacharjee and thousands of netizens who were pitching for the inclusion of sanitary napkins in flood relief items through a petition called Dignity in Floods at Change.org. The online petition was signed by 1.3 lakh people, who wanted to ensure proper menstrual hygiene at the relief centres established by the government during the annual floods.
To draw attention to the suffering of women in flood relief camps, Bhattacharjee even delivered a box of 300 pads to the ASDMA chief and to chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma when he was the health and finance minister in August 2020.
Reacting to the latest news, a visibly excited and emotional Bhattacharjee said: “I was so thrilled when I received a personal message from the ASDMA about this notification. I am relieved that adolescent girls and women of my state will have one thing less to worry about while battling floods during a pandemic, because as we know periods don’t stop for floods or pandemics. And now we can put an end to their suffering.”
The campaign on Change.org has been asking the government for 50 model women-friendly flood shelters which include sanitary napkins in 10 flood-prone districts.
The Assam government first noticed the campaign in March 2019 when the then minister for disaster management Bhabesh Kalita responded and promised to take action.
While the tender calling for bids for the supply of sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators in flood shelters and relief camps was issued by ASDMA on May 10, the notification that officially makes sanitary napkins a flood relief item was sent out in the week of World Menstrual Hygiene Day, which was on May 28.
Congratulating on the successful completion of the campaign, Nida Hasan, country director at Change.org India, said: “I congratulate Mayuri on her success in bringing a hidden issue to the forefront, building public awareness and support, and persuading the government to take action. I commend the state government for taking a big step towards securing the health and dignity of women in disaster situations.”