Education: To give every school-going girl access to safe sanitary pads, the education ministry launched a project that will provide low-cost sanitary pads during the National Education Conference in Phuentsholing yesterday.

The project is in collaboration with the Empathy Foundation and supported by Sugal and Damani from India.

The pads will cost between Nu 2-2.50 per piece. “With the launching of new low-cost sanitary pads, every school girl should be able to have access to safe sanitary pads,” education minister Norbu Wangchuk said.

The sanitary pads will be provided for free initially with the Empathy Foundation providing the sanitary pad processing machine and raw materials for free. Empathy Foundation, which is an NGO based in India has agreed to provide nine such sanitary pad-processing machines for free to the ministry.

“While the sanitary pads will be handed out for free initially, a nominal fee will be charged in future for sustainability,” school health and nutrition division chief programme officer Deki Tshomo said.

Even with the charging of a nominal fee, the sanitary pads are going to cost only around Nu 2 per piece. One sanitary pad-processing machine can produce 1,000 pads a day.  The nine machines will be handed over to schools across the country.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk also said that schoolgirls no longer have to use rags and undergo menstruation related problems in the schools. “Our school girls will no longer have to undergo indignity, disrespect and shame because of menstruation with the introduction of low-cost sanitary pads,” he said.

The minister added that the introduction of low-cost sanitary pads would put an end to absenteeism from classes because of menstruation related problems. “Many girls in schools were found staying away from classes because of menstruation problems since they could not afford proper sanitary pads,” he said.

The sanitary pads have been highly approved by schools in India. “Even school and college girls in India have been using these sanitary pads,” Shyam Bededkar from Vatsalya Foundation, who improvised the sanitary pad machine, said. It is made from wood pulp, air-laid and synthetic paper. The sanitary pads are disinfected using ultraviolet rays in the disinfecting chamber.

The napkins are also environmentally friendly since it has a disposal bin with it where the girls can dispose of used pads by burning. The machine can be operated by school girls themselves.

Tempa Wangdi