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Napkins' high price bars menstrual safety in Bangladesh

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Gulam Rabbani :
Sanitary napkin is one of the most sellable goods in the market. But most of the women in our country, especially women of the lower and middle-income families, don't use napkin due to its high price though it is directly related to their health. So, these women are bound to follow unhygienic and traditional methods during their menstruation, which is threatening sever health risk to them.
While visiting the market, it was found that country's first sanitary napkin is 'Senora'. Now Monalisa, Freedom, Joya and many other domestic and foreign bands' napkins are available in the market. But the product of every company is very expensive for the poor women. Moreover, many women don't want to spend money due to lack of awareness about menstrual health risk.
Average price of one packet napkin of each category is Tk 80 to Tk 250.The level of price is still high for the lower and middle-income families of the country. In our country, a family can buy two kilograms rice by Tk80.
A report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, published on May 29, 2017, said that Bangladesh has 8 crore and 7 lakh 50 thousand women.More than 30 percent of them are in reproductive age, which means they have menstrual cycle in their lives, a report of Magnum Management Consulting, an international management consulting firm, said quoting World Bank.
But only a small portion of the reproductive aged women of the country use hygienic methods during their menstruation. Preliminary Report of Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey, published in 2014, said, average 86 percent woman of reproductive women in Bangladesh use old cloths during menstruation.
The report added that only 9 percent female students in the rural area use disposal pads during menstruation and in the urban area this ratio is 21 percent.
Whereas 87 percent of the rural female students use old cloths during their menstruation and in the urban area this ratio is 76 percent.
90 percent of the rural female students and 78 percent of the urban students store their menstrual cloths in a hidden place for repeated use, the report also said.
"Around a quarter of the female students did not go to school during menstruation and almost onethirdthought that menstrual problems interfered with school performance. Just over half of studentsreported that they were forbidden from religious activities; while 74% of them were forbidden fromnon-religious activities during menstruation," the report added.
Dr Elvina Mustary, Deputy Director at Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Program (RHSTEP), said, "A large number of woman in the country are in menstrual health risk as they use unhygienic method during menstruation. It can cause urinary and uterus infections. There is danger of having cervical cancer from these infections."
"The government or the policy makers should take initiatives for the awareness on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in the country. They have to take the responsibility to ensure the infrastructure of MHM for the people of remote areas. As well as the price of napkin should be affordable for the poor people," Dr Elvina added.
In our country, menstrual rags are considered to be harmful and shameful, and therefore must not be seen by men or boys. Most women rinse the rags in the latrine and then wash them more thoroughly outside, sometimes with soap. After washing the rags they then dry them inside, hidden in a narrow corner, under the bed or in the rafters. After each menstrual period the rags are washed, dried, and stored in a secret place.
Because cultural restrictions require rags to be dried indoors, they may not dry completely. Washing rags in river or pond water without soap, drying them in damp and dark conditions encourage mildew and bacteria. When rags are stored between periods, they are sometimes infested with insects. Repeated use of such rags causes rashes that lead to more severe health problems such as infections.
Menstruation often causes physical discomfort, cramps and tiredness. Food restrictions imposed on menstruating girls and women, such as forbidding them meat, fish, eggs, and certain vegetables, may increase feelings of tiredness and add to their overall poor nutrition.
Considering the taboos, social restrictions, misconceptions and lack of information in the society, a large-scale campaign to create awareness is very important. The government also needs to provide their proper attitude and support for MHM.

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