Menstrual hygiene management directly influences women’s reproductive health, education and labour participation thus closely associated with gender equity and women empowerment.
Unfortunately, 41% of the school girls in Bangladesh do not attend classes during their periods, and 73% women miss their work for an average 6 days a month for infection (reproductive and urinary tract infection) caused by unhygienic menstrual management.
A survey was carried out in rural and semi urban areas across six districts of Bangladesh (Feni, Gazipur, Khulna, Rangpur, Satkhira and Tangail) in 2017. So far, 300 women and young adolescent girls were proportionately sampled and interviewed during the survey.
About 56% of the respondents reported using sanitary pads, while 41% reported using clothes and 3% reported using cotton as menstrual protection.
A hygiene guideline recommends changing absorbents (cloth/cotton/pad) every two to six hours interval depending on the blood flow. But the respondents hardly knew about that. On the other hand, different media advertisement says that their product provides whole day protection.
22.33% of the respondents change the absorbent once a day, 48% of them change twice a day and only 29.67% change thrice or more a day.
Till date sanitary napkin is considered a luxury cosmetic item in many parts of Bangladesh. Majority of the sanitary napkin prices range from BDT 70-145/pack. It is difficult for a girl to spend this amount of money for sanitary napkins each month especially where the average income of the family is below BDT 10,000/month.
Behind the scene of high price of BDT 10-15/piece of sanitary napkin there are some policy issues which have been ignored by our policy makers. Customs duty of sanitary pad is 127.84/Kg. Good quality sanitary napkin requires 12 to 15 types of raw materials from outside the country and local producers usually have to pay high duty which is around 70% on it. Worldwide wholesale supply rate of sanitary pads are approximately BDT 2.5-5/piece. High custom duty as well as monopoly of some businessmen transformed our essential need into a luxurious cosmetic item.
The production and distribution of low cost sanitary pads, subsidising the costs of sanitary napkin for economically deprived group, reducing/waiving tax on menstrual absorbent are the timely means of improving menstrual hygiene management.
We are living in a country where women are the head of the government almost for the last twenty five years. I believe policy makers will realise and take necessary action on it as a part of their commitment on women empowerment and gender equity.