Maneka launches #YesIBleed campaign, claims she made govt reduce GST on sanitary pads
Union minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi inaugurated a menstrual hygiene campaign called #YesIBleed on Tuesday in New Delhi.
The minister said that the government-backed nationwide campaign in association with SheWings, an organisation that aims to spread awareness about menstrual health, intends to create a healthy, eco-friendly and sustainable society with greater access to hygienic menstrual practices for women, especially at in villages.
Gandhi said, “Menstrual hygiene is an integral part of the sanitation programme of the government. Our team of officials will delve into all the aspects of manufacture of sanitary napkins, their low cost availability and their hygienic disposal.”
The minister spoke of period poverty and recognised the urgent requirement to eradicate it in the country. She said, “The objective of the campaign is to create a holistic approach to issue of menstruation, which is an experience that transcends culture, class, and caste. The United Nations has recognised menstrual hygiene as a global public health and a human rights issue across the globe. ‘Period poverty’ as some call it, is a reality for millions of women and girls in India.”
She added, "We aim to spread awareness about menstrual health education and have an open dialogue on menstruation. We will focus on creating awareness, supply of inexpensive and eco-friendly sanitary pads and proper means of disposal of used products.”
The minister also said that it was due to the WCD ministry’s consistent push that the finance ministry was compelled to reduce the Goods and Service Tax on sanitary napkins from 18 to 12 per cent.
Gandhi said, “The finance ministry has in the past said that exempting all sanitary napkins from GST would unduly benefit MNCs and destroy the upcoming local market. One has to understand the logic of the finance ministry and I’d rather have low-cost, locally made sanitary towels, and this 12 per cent actually allows us to create a new industry.”
Sudodh Gupta said, patron of SheWings and Director of Okaya Power Company, said, "Menstruation is still a taboo subject in our country and a topic that even women are uncomfortable discussing in public. In order to dispel myths surrounding menstruation and to promote menstrual hygiene awareness, the #YesIBleed campaign was conceptualized.”
He added, "In India's rural areas, not only is there ignorance about menstrual hygiene, but unaffordability to buy sanitary pads is a major hindrance. Only 12% of the country's 355 million menstruating women can afford to avail sanitary protection.”
The Women and Child Development ministry, in association with SheWings, plans to manufacture and distribute low-cost, locally made, hygienic sanitary pads all across the country especially in rural India.
According to a recent survey - "Sanitary Protection: Every Woman's Health Right", undertaken by A C Nielsen, 23 % of adolescent Indian girls in the age group of 12-18 years drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate menstrual protection. 88% do not have access to sanitary pads and use unsanitised cloth, husk sand, tree leaves and even ash. These can cause severe reproductive health problems and infections, and can also lead to cervical cancer. An urban Indian woman spends a minmum of approximately Rs 200 per month on sanitary napkins. Rural women find sanitary napkins simply unaffordable.
Co-Founder of SheWings, Ravi Shankar, said , "We hope to involve the youth of the nation in a way that this critical issue of women's reproductive health becomes a pan-India movement which is sustainable and can be carried forward by the youth.”
Bollywood actor Divya Dutta was also be part of the launch. She said, "I urge everyone, especially the youth, to come forward to support the initiative as real change can happen only through them.”
The event also had medical professionals and social activists talk about the harmful effects of not using hygienic menstrual wear, its availability and affordability as well as the issue of disposal of sanitary pads.
The menstrual hygiene campaign was launched almost a fortnight after the release of the popular Akshay Kumar starrer film Padman, which has focused on the issue of menstrual hygiene in the country and the reluctance to talk about menstruation.