India has been in lockdown for a little over a month to fight the Coronavirus global pandemic. Staying indoors and maintaining social distancing was important for safety and health. However, according to social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented the low-cost pad-making machines, there is a scarcity for sanitary pads in the rural areas and women there could soon be forced to switch back to the use of rag-cloth which can harm their menstrual health.
He told Bombay Times, “Unlike urban areas, where you can source sanitary pads by going from one medical store to another, women in villages are finding it difficult to continue using sanitary pads because they’re not easily available.
They might quietly roll back to the rag-cloth. The units producing the economical sanitary pads have been in shut-down mode since a month or more. The stock that the units had has all been exhausted. Since it’s not easily available as there aren’t too many shops in villages, women are finding it difficult to maintain menstrual hygiene in these times.”
He added, “We have been receiving phone calls about the disruption in the supply of pads which we think needs to be taken seriously.
Unless pads are officially and clearly counted among essentials, how do we help women procure them for their cycles? We can only request the state and central governments to allow pad-manufacturing units, especially the ones in rural areas being run by women’s self-help groups, to start functioning and help them procure material for that.”
While there is talk of the lockdown getting extended in different parts of the country,
Muruganantham, whose life inspired Akshay Kumar’s film PadMan, worries that all the effort made for women’s menstrual hygiene over the years could get wasted. “I am all for health and safety but now, in the lockdown, if women in the interiors are forced to go back to rag cloth, it will damage their health in a big way,” he concluded.