By Juhi Pandit and Ankur Manikandan
Despite a pandemic, human needs remain constant: food, water, and shelter remain necessities regardless of ongoing circumstances. However, many fail to consider another constant: menstruation. Although purchasing menstrual products from nearby pharmacies or having them delivered may seem like the obvious solution, it is out of the question for the women living in the slums in India during COVID-19.
The stay-at-home order has piled critical problems onto these women. The stigma and taboo surrounding periods prevent women from asking their male family members to purchase pads, regardless of the family’s economic situation. However, most slum-residing families survive off of day-to-day wages which have halted due to the ongoing pandemic. This compels the women to prioritize buying food for their families over feminine hygiene products, with some even placing the thirst of their alcoholic husbands above their own health and self-respect.
In response, Myna Mahila Foundation is committed to supporting women and families in the Mumbai slums by ensuring they have access to feminine hygiene products, food, and masks. The foundation has helped over 725 families by providing them with 25,474 food packets. In addition, Myna Mahila has partnered with various organizations to broaden its sanitary pad distribution, distributing over 52,000 sanitary pads so far. Myna Mahila's in-person menstrual education initiatives (Sponsor a Girl and Teach Menses India) have changed in format, taking place virtually, via mediums like Instagram Live and Zoom. The foundation has also set up a helpline in Mumbai in order to enable women who are facing domestic violence to seek help, as well as to provide a safe space for women to speak freely and safely about any issue, including their sexual and reproductive health. To further COVID-19 relief, the Foundation is currently re-purposing its sanitary napkin manufacturing unit to produce over 6,600 face masks, giving them to health providers along with menstrual kits.
Donations are now, more than ever, critical to transforming the lives of low-income families and supporting the essential health workers throughout India. Let's join hands and collectively help these communities in need.