• In some parts of India, schools provided pads to girls every month, but with lockdown only 15% of girls had access to sanitary pads. 
  • Women in other parts of the world have also reported shortages for disposable menstrual products. 
  • India's government campaigns for use of disposable pads for hygiene purposes but hygiene is more than just access to sanitary products.  
  • Little has been done to create awareness about cheaper alternatives that are more sustainable like menstrual cups and reusable pads. 
  • If given comprehensive information on menstrual products, women are likely to make a choice that considers their health and the environment. 

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered what has been described as a “sanitary pad crisis” in India. Priya, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, considers herself lucky: her parents can still afford pads. But several of her friends will have to go without. In some parts of India, schools are a critical part of the supply chain, providing a pack of pads to girls each month. With them closed, along with other supply chain issues, as few as 15% of girls had access to sanitary pads during the lockdown.

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This is not only the case in India. Women in Fiji, the U.S., UK and other parts of the world have also reported severe supply shortages and hiked up prices for disposable menstrual products.

But in India, where I have spent much of the last few years researching how women choose to manage their periods, shortages are particularly severe. The situation escalated quickly as India went into an sudden and complete lockdown on 24 March 2020. This put an immediate stop to the monthly supply of pads that millions of adolescent girls received via their schools. The production of sanitary pads also came to a screeching halt for seven days, which lead to stockouts in several locations.