Srinagar: Community medicine specialist Dr. Auqfeen Nisar was shell-shocked when she learnt that one of her old patients has reverted back to using cloth during periods.
Even before she could come to terms with this development, she was in for a bigger shock when she came to know that her patient’s income had dried up to the extent that she was unable to buy sanitary pads.
Dr. Auqfeen, who started `Panin Fikr’, a first-of-its-kind, crowd-funded campaign against menstrual taboo, was using Edigah girl’s transformation as a test case for the successful programme.
“After the pandemic broke out, the donations stopped pouring in. Our funds have completely dried up and we are unable to provide sanitary napkins free of cost under the initiative to those who have registered with us. Moreover, door-to-door and mass awareness campaigns are not possible at this time given the ban on social gatherings,” Dr. Auqfeen said.
`Panin Fikr’ had catered to 4,000 women since it started the campaign two years back. COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have unleashed a sanitary napkin crisis in the valley.
“Free napkins were a great source of motivation for girls. However, all our efforts will go to waste if things continue like this. They will resort to their old, unhygienic practices if they haven’t done so already,” Dr. Auqfeen said.
Similarly, the crisis has been aggravated by the fact that the mobility of women is severely restricted during the lockdown.
Irfana Zargar, 30, the founder of ‘Eva’s Safety Door’. used to distribute sanitary napkins for free among the attendants of public toilets in Srinagar city. With toilets now shut, the campaign has also gone for a toss.
“The lockdown has resulted in restricted access and mobility, making it even more difficult for girls to manage their monthly cycle in a dignified healthy way,” she said.
Zargar who also works at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has now been posted at the 24*7 district control room that handles COVID-19 related complaints.
Dr. Nausheen Khan, a senior gynecologist at Lal Ded Hospital, said the government must pull up its socks to help poor women who cannot afford sanitary pads.
“The government must ensure that the sanitary pads are distributed to females in the community through Auxiliary Nurse-Midwives (ANMs) and ASHAs. Even if sanitary napkins are not available, they should educate them on how to make sanitary napkins at home. The napkins can be made from cotton cloth and changed frequently. They should be washed properly before using it again,” she said.