Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy launched the ‘Swechha’ programme to ensure affordable access to health and menstrual hygiene products among adolescent girls and women. Swecha means freedom and it is intended is to prioritise female personal hygiene and encourage a healthy dialogue of information, the state government said in an official statement.
Under the initiative, the state government will provide sanitary napkins to female students at government educational institutions free of cost. As many as 10 sanitary napkins will be given every month to about 10 lakh adolescent girls studying in classes 7 to 12 in all the state government schools and intermediate colleges.
A total of 120 napkins per year has been allotted to every female student, even during summer vacations, the students will be supplied with their quota before they leave school. A financial outlay of Rs 32 crores has been set aside, the govt said. The brands being supplied in government schools are Whisper and Niine.
Each school will have a female educator appointed as a nodal officer to help the female students with sanitary napkins supply, safe methods of disposal, and any assistance the students may require. Further for a safer and environment-friendly way of disposal, the state government has set up 6,417 incinerators across the state through the Clean Andhra Pradesh (CLAP) initiative.
The free sanitary products are being supplied after the state government signed MoUs with P&G and Niine. Additionally, through the MOUs signed, sanitary napkins will be sold at YSR Cheyutha retail stores at lowered prices to around 1 crore women residing in both rural and urban areas.
According to a report by the United Nations Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, 23 per cent of girls in India drop out of school due to lack of menstruation products, inadequate surroundings to change sanitary napkins, lack of running water, and absence of disposal facilities.
The AP government is further building restroom facilities for girls with an uninterrupted water supply in 56,703 government schools, hostels, and educational institutions, which are set to be completed by July 2023. The construction of separate restrooms in 15,715 schools has already been completed, the govt said.