On August 10, the community centre in Vambay Colony of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, became witness to the start of a ground-breaking initiative – the inauguration of a sanitary pad vending machine and an incinerator installed by ActionAid Association with support from Franklin Templeton. The setting up of these machines is part of a larger programme being run by us jointly since March 2018 on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). Ms. Vijayalakshmi, Project Director of Women and Child Welfare Department, Visakhapatnam, inaugurated the machines. The programme was attended by nearly 250 people, including adolescents, community leaders, ASHAs, anganwadi workers and representatives from several civil society organizations.
A community-led initiative, this self-service vending machine will enable adolescent girls and women from marginalized communities to procure sanitary napkins at a very affordable cost of Rs. 2 per napkin. In order to make it a participatory programme, the local community members were encouraged to contribute a small amount of money towards the procurement of the first lot of sanitary napkins to be placed in the machine. Besides, a joint bank account has been set up for the maintenance of these machines and to cater to other related needs; that will be maintained by a committee comprising local community members.
Since the start of the MHM programme in March 2018, we have been able to sensitize and encourage more than 900 girls and nearly 2000 women to start using sanitary napkins by providing them easy access to the napkins with support from Franklin Templeton. Besides, more than 10,000 people have been reached out through health camps and awareness programmes on menstrual hygiene. While the newly-installed vending machine promises improved menstrual health and hygiene among local girls and women, the incinerator would help solve the problems arising out of improper and unhygienic disposal of used napkins, such as infections, environmental pollution and clogging of drainage systems.
The adolescent girls in Vambay Colony are now happy; they say that the sensitization programmes have helped them immensely in improving their health and menstrual hygiene. Furthermore, the taboos that used to prevent them from talking openly about menstruation are now disappearing. And what’s more! These girls no longer have to miss school during their periods!
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