The state’s move to roll out a central government scheme to distribute free sanitary napkins among rural women has come a cropper.
The scheme was rolled out in 10 districts at the initial phase and was to be rolled out in the remaining 28 districts later. But poor response of the beneficiaries has forced the health department to drop the plan.
“The initiative of distributing sanitary napkins among the rural women was taken in 2012 under National Rural Health Mission, a programme conceived by the Centre. As a pilot basis, the programme was launched in in 2012 in 10 districts — Aurangabad, Kaimur, Rohtas, Vaishali, Bhojpur, Buxar, Saran, Darbhanga, Munger and Gaya. According to the plan, we were supposed to launch the programme in the remaining 28 districts on the basis of the response we receive. But the programme has not received many takers yet. Therefore, we have dropped the plan. If this plan had been implemented, it would have ensured menstrual hygiene among the women,” an official of the State Health Society said.
The State Health Society is looking after the implementation part of the programme in Bihar.
The accredited social health activists (Asha) workers and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM) workers sell the sanitary napkins among women. Each packet of sanitary napkins, comprising four pieces, was made available at an affordable price to the women.
While in Vaishali, the napkins are manufactured by a self-help group, for other districts these are bought from Hindustan Latex Limited.
“A packet of sanitary napkin costs Rs 6. Asha and ANM workers have to deposit Rs 5 to the Rogi Kalyan Samiti of the primary health centres and they earn Re 1 on the sale of a packet of sanitary napkin. So the scheme had also tried to motivate front- line health workers to do their job efficiently. Though the Asha and ANM workers tried hard to motivate rural women, they are still not successful in their attempt. Most of the workers have complained that many sanitary napkins are lying in the stores for a long time because there are no takers. Therefore, we have shelved the plan of rolling out the programme in the other 28 districts,” the official said.
The workers admitted that they have to face resistance on field.
“Most of the women of the selected disctricts are not willing to pay Rs 6 for the napkins. They don’t understand menstrual hygiene,” said Babita Kumari, an auxiliary nurse midwife at Keoti primary health centre in Darbhanga district.