Thiruvananthapuram: It is mandatory for local bodies to set apart 10 per cent of their budget for women component plan, but at a time when campaigns regarding healthy sanitation facilities for women abound, very little of this is spent on sanitation. When local government representatives are asked about WCP, they would start listing farming or microfinance projects, but none are related to sanitation.
Poovar grama panchayat president M.S. Ajithakumari says, "we have set apart projects offering subsidy to women who want to buy cows or eggs for poultry business. Since ours is a coastal region, ice boxes are also given but it is for both men and women. We don't have a sanitation project under WCP. Since the state was declared ODF, we might not be able to get more funds to build toilets unless they are included in MGNREGS."
Women in coastal areas badly need proper sanitation facilities, not necessarily more sanitary napkins. Sakhi co-founder Aleyamma Vijayan says, "fish vendor women suffer from health issues because they might have to spend an entire day without access to toilets. Or, places with toilets might not have water. Disposal of sanitary napkins is another issue they face. So many have urinary tract infections. School girls, women who need to travel and fish vendors have urinary tract infections. However, WCP is hardly spent on sanitation."
The women component plans are prepared without any imagination or consultation with women, says academic J. Devika who has been researching on local bodies. "The money can be spent on subsidies on menstrual cups for women who cannot afford them. There could be panchayat-level awareness workshops regarding its use. Devices to dispose of sanitary napkins can be set up in women's hostels and convents," she says.
The National Family Health Survey, which ranked Kerala third in menstrual hygiene, has not counted the access that women have to toilets. Interestingly, Only Disposable Sanitary Napkins (DSN), tampons and menstrual cups have been listed as hygienic choices. Cloth pads and cloth do not find a place....