S M Shaikat, Executive Director of SERAC Bangladesh is speaking at a discussion session. * PHOTO: COURTESY
Women and girls around the world need to manage their menstruation during their reproductive age. The specific challenges that women and girls experience depend on social norms, customs, education and socio-economic factors. Managing menstruation with normalcy and indignity remains a challenge everywhere.
Currently, Bangladesh government has policy and programs focusing access to WASH. However, the issue of menstruation in Bangladesh remains a difficult issue to discuss openly, particularly among adolescents despite its importance in this delicate stage of their life.
Many young people in Bangladesh do not have access to adequate information about menstruation because of a strong social and cultural taboo around the issue which causes a pervasive silence. There are approximately 50 million menstruating women in Bangladesh but they hardly access the knowledge of menstrual health management and use proper sanitary pads.
According to The Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey 2014, (conducted by WaterAid, the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research with the support from the Government of Bangladesh) found widespread evidence of poor MHM practices and knowledge in the country. For instance, only about a third of adolescent girls knew about menstruation at menarche. The vast majority of girls and women surveyed used old cloth during their menses; recommended cleaning and drying methods were followed by only 12% of adolescent girls. Nearly a third of school girls questioned mentioned that menstrual problems interfere with school performance, and only a small minority (6 percent) had received any lessons on MHM at school.
Girls and women from both rural and urban set-ups can hardly afford sanitary pads because of the high cost involved. This is driven by the high taxation on imported products and raw materials of sanitary pads which makes the sanitary pads non-affordable and available to all.
Around 60% import tax is imposed on the imported products and the tax rate on raw materials varies between 60%-76% on different raw materials. Few local manufacturers are trying to produce affordable products but mostly at the end, they have to compromise with the quality of the product due to cost issues. If this high taxation environment doesn’t change, majority young girls and women of Bangladesh will be deprived of affordable and quality sanitary products.
To overcome this situation, a youth-led advocacy effort to reach community level is a timely step to be taken and the voices are needed to be heard by the policy and decision makers. Toward that effort, SERAC-Bangladesh will be celebrating the world menstrual hygiene Day 2018 followed by publishing a demand-based documentary which will focus on how this high taxation and high costing issue of sanitary pads are affecting poor girls and women mostly the slum living people of urban areas. So this Youth Advocates’ Training on Menstrual Hygiene Management’ will create human assets to reach policymakers in creative and effective ways to advocate on reducing the tax on menstrual hygiene commodities and making them affordable for girls and women.
To overcome this situation, a youth-led advocacy effort to reach community level is needed and the voices are needed to be heard by policymakers. So toward that effort, SERAC-Bangladesh celebrated the world menstrual hygiene Day 2018 followed by publishing a demand-based documentary which focused on how this high taxation and high costing issue of sanitary pads are affecting poor girls and women mostly the slum living people of urban areas.
Youth representatives urged the government to reduce the tax on essential menstrual hygiene products commodities, at a day-long training organized by SERAC-Bangladesh on Monday in Dhaka. The training was joined by a number of health experts and thirty young leaders. The training program was intended to raise voices and demands for access to affordable and quality menstruation in Bangladesh.
The program facilitated by S M Shaikat, Executive Director, SERAC Bangladesh, Sadia Rahman, Program Officer, SERAC-Bangladesh, Tasnia Ahmed, Youth Program Associate, SERAC-Bangladesh, Md. Jakaria Hossain, Ipas Bangladesh, Monjun Nahar, Marie Stopes Bangladesh.