Menstruation is increasingly being normalised in our nation. In fact, Miss World Manushi Chhillar was awarded ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ for her campaigns and work towards ‘Project Shakti’ which is about safe and affordable menstrual hygiene for the women of India. However, despite its presence in pop culture, there is a long way to go before we destigmatise the purely biological concept of menstruation. A small sanitary napkin vending machine that was inspired by a young girl’s request at a 2007 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) workshop has changed life dramatically for girls in India. A sanitary napkin vending machine is a coin-operated compact machine that automatically dispenses sanitary napkins, along with a compact electric incinerator for disposal of used napkins.
Awareness about menstruation and menstrual hygiene are two major issues under public welfare and women’s health. It is also high time the taboos related to menstruation are forgone. This is the time when filmmakers are working to telecast the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu who designed a low-cost sanitary napkin vending machine. Similar are the attempts of the Railway Women’s Welfare Association who successfully installed the first-ever sanitary napkin vending machine in the Bhopal Railway Station in January this year. Sanitary napkin vending machines, amongst others, were the focus of the New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) budget for 2018-19.
It is upsetting to know that whereas schools in Delhi are planning to install sanitary napkin vending machines, some of the premier colleges and universities in the capital have not yet started this essential operation. There are sanitary napkin vending machines in many colleges of DU that were installed years ago to facilitate and ease women’s periods. Co-ed colleges like Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, Hindu College, Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, and St. Stephen’s College have well-functioning napkin vending machines. Girls’ colleges like Miranda House and Gargi College have these machines installed, but they are dysfunctional at times.
On asking if sanitary napkins are always available in the machine, a student of Miranda House revealed that there is a misuse of the machine, due to which it often remains empty. In Daulat Ram College, mismanagement has led to an all-time empty machine. “Our college students’ union made promises of installing sanitary napkin vending machines, but it was never fulfilled,” said a student of Daulat Ram College under the condition of anonymity. Similar is the scenario in Shivaji College. On the other hand, colleges like Zakir Husain Delhi College and Ramjas College do not have these facilities for women.
Speaking to DU Beat during the Women’s Marathon, Mahamedhaa Nagar, Secretary of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU), said, “By the next month, we are aiming to install sanitary pad vending machines in all Delhi University colleges, regardless of their affiliation with DUSU.” Let’s hope that, unlike the promises of other unions, this one actually sees the light of day.
Image Credits: Mark-It, the marketing society of SSCBS