India has over 35,50,00,000 menstruating women, but access to safe and hygienic menstrual health has always been an issue that has rarely been addressed.
82% of these women don't use sanitary napkins and use alternative materials such as an old cloth, rags, hay, ash, sand. That's 29,11,00,000 women in India who don't have access to sanitary napkins.
In an effort to counter this, the government on Monday announced that it would slash the price of sanitary napkins sold from its Jan Aushadhi Kendras to just Re 1 per piece from Rs 2.50 currently.
The sanitary napkins, called 'Suvidha', which are biodegradable, will be available at a subsidized price of Re 1 for each pad. Before the subsidy, they were sold for Rs 10 for a pack of four.
“These napkins under the brand name Suvidha will be available at 5,500 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across the country,” Mandaviya had told PTI in an interview.
While the initiative is a huge step in the right direction, something about the launch of the scheme seemed off - the event which was about improving women's menstrual health. However, didn't seem to have a single woman present on stage.
A photo posted on Twitter by Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Sadananda Gowda, showed what was really 'missing' from the initiative.
ಪ್ರಧಾನ ಮಂತ್ರಿ ಔಷದ ಕೇಂದ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಸುವಿಧಾ ಸ್ಯಾನಿಟರಿ ಪ್ಯಾಡ್ ಗಳು Rs 1 ರಲ್ಲಿ ಲಭ್ಯ. ಈ ಪ್ಯಾಡ್ ಗಳು ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಪರಿಸರ ಸ್ನೇಹಿಯಾದವು. pic.twitter.com/IFDTH4hdEH
— Sadananda Gowda (@DVSadanandGowda) August 27, 2019
Another image, posted by Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State for Shipping and Chemicals & Fertilizers, of the launch event made it clear it wasn't just one picture women were missing from. Mansukh captioned the photo: "#WomenEmpowerment isn't about just featuring successful women, it is about focusing on health, hygiene & comfort of women across the country."
#WomenEmpowerment isn't about just featuring successful women, it is about focusing on health, hygiene & comfort of women across the country. Proud to launch #Suvidha now at just ₹1/pad. This will ensure hygienic periods to crores of my sisters and mothers. #SuvidhaHuaSasta pic.twitter.com/HmqEKO1UyD
— Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) August 27, 2019
The irony of no women on the panel wasn't lost on Twitterati. While they complimented the initiative, they also asked the very glaring, in-your-face question, 'Where are the women?'
Where are the women
— Aadwitya (@Aadwitya2) August 28, 2019
Where are the women in this picture, the gender category this product is geared towards. 😬 https://t.co/ggv0Vw54lh
— Rupa Subramanya (@rupasubramanya) August 28, 2019
A very thoughtful gesture, sir...but where are the women? https://t.co/H4AFM8pM21
— radhika masale employee (@FuschiaScribe) August 27, 2019
I like how all these ladies in the picture are so monochrome in their taste, totally defying the pink and purple stereotype https://t.co/HHnSnvGtoK
— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) August 27, 2019
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) August 28, 2019
That is great. Genuinely. But where are the women. https://t.co/NCJVfBQ85g
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) August 28, 2019
Men talking about #womenempowerment
Men talking about #MenstrualHygiene
Men launching Suvidha sanitary pad.
WITHOUT ANY WOMAN ON STAGE!!! https://t.co/htl2heIkvD
— All India Mahila Congress (@MahilaCongress) August 27, 2019
I guess it's a fair point: why is there no female leader in this photo? Or was there a woman leader on the dais but the camera din't capture her? Or was a woman leader too ashamed to pose with a pad? https://t.co/3G3D966bOf
— Regina Dulanjali (@ReginaDulanjali) August 28, 2019
For real though, where are the women? Why are men getting to talk about women empowerment without a single woman being present on the stage?
And if you are wondering why was there a need for women to be there for the launch of an object that is for them, well you have your answer.
But we aren't surprised. Remember that panel for 'film industry delegation' who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi? There were no women there either.