At a time when attempts are being made to remove the taboo associated with the topic of menstrual hygiene with increased awareness, the Maharashtra government is all set to roll out its “Asmita Yojana” on the International Women’s Day next month. Under the scheme, girls in Zilla Parishad schools will get a sanitary napkin packet at Rs 5 while rural women can avail it at a subsidised rate of Rs 24 and Rs 29. The scheme, catering to girl students and women in rural areas, will be formally launched on March 8, a Rural Development ministry official told PTI. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar will be present at the launch.
Akshay’s film “Padman”, released recently, envisioned to create awareness about menstrual hygiene among rural women. The Asmita Yojana was announced last year by Women and Child and Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde. According to the official, there is very little awareness about hygiene during periods among girls in the age group of 11 to 19 years and women in general in rural areas of Maharashtra. “Only 17 per cent of them use sanitary napkins,” he said.
He attributes high costs of sanitary pads, their unavailability in rural areas and awkwardness among women to purchase them from male chemists as the main reasons behind such low usage. The state government has appointed “Umed’- the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission, as a nodal agency for effective implementation of the scheme, the official said. Under the scheme, beneficiary girls will be given “Asmita Cards”, while participating Self Help Groups (SHGs) will be entrusted with the task of the supply and sale of sanitary pads and counselling the girls and women. “The SHGs will have to procure sanitary napkins from suppliers by registering on the Asmita mobile application and distribute them to rural women and girls as per the requirement and demand,” the official said, adding that the SHGs concerned will earn Rs 5 in profit per sanitary packet.
Meanwhile, the Rural Development Minister said a hygiene campaign will also be launched across the state to increase awareness among young girls on usage of sanitary pads. “This will boost school attendance as well. Similarly, it will help to create employment opportunities for women in rural areas and create awareness about health and education,” Munde said. The move came at a time when various sections of the society and some political parties have been demanding slashing of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on sanitary napkins. Earlier this year, the state Cabinet approved a plan to provide sanitary pads to women in rural areas at subsidised rates to promote hygiene and reduce school absenteeism.