On the occasion of the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Girls, November 25, 2020 in Jaipur, the Community Management Committee (CMC) members, frontline workers such as ASHAs, ANMs, Anganwadi workers and representatives of health and sanitation programmes such as Mahila Arogya Samiti of Nagtalai, Transport Nagar, Amagadh, Shakti Colony, Lakshminarayan Puri, Parvat Colony of Ward 67, are launching a campaign to make all stakeholders – women, girls, men, community leaders, shopkeepers, youth, local service-providers, teachers, sanitary workers to name a few – realize that Menstrual Hygiene Management is Everyone’s Business.
The pandemic and the nationwide lockdown that followed in March 2020 revealed the extreme distress that urban poor women and girls were subjected to. All services – schools, ICDS, PHCs, counselling centres –were closed down. Along with the halting of free distribution of sanitary pads, the prices of these articles in the open market shot up, making these unaffordable for most, especially for women and girls from poor families living in informal settlements. Not only their access to sanitary pads became very difficult, they also found it hard to use public taps and public toilets while they were also severely compromised on hygiene practices, including safe disposal of used menstrual absorbents. It was devastating, emotionally and psychologically, many of them told us. Worse, there was an absence of policy response to this common and pressing problem. In the initial phase of the lockdown, sanitary napkin was not listed as an essential item. It was only after the government realized the omission that this was set right.
In the light of this very traumatic experience of abject neglect and complete disruption of the minimum support and services, the campaign title, “Make MHM Everyone’s Business”, suggests raising awareness and securing everyone’s commitment to do their bit as policy-makers, decision-makers, family members of women and girls, citizens, neighbours, partners, colleagues and friends to make MHM truly safe for all women and girls. This campaign stresses the need to recognize that we can no longer just be bystanders and observers and exhorts us to act together to make MHM safe for women and girls.
The campaign can be taken forward at many levels in collaboration with the key stakeholders – from the government to the academia, experts, civil society organizations and the private sector. We can use different formats such as facilitating dialogue, holding gender sensitization workshops, conducting awareness campaigns by organising street plays, community discussions, holding talks by experts, undertaking focused micro-planning by all concerned to decide on how best to engage with the issue in every way.
The campaign will be facilitated by the CMC members of Ward 63 and the team from Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR). It is part of a pilot intervention to ‘Mainstream menstrual hygiene management to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls’, living in the slums of Bhubaneswar and Jaipur. This is being supported by Water for Women Fund, Australian Government.