Bhopal station has become the first railway station in India to install a sanitary napkin machine on one of its platforms. This is being referred as a New Year gift to all women passengers from the Railway Department. Now anyone can get two sanitary napkins by putting a coin of Rs. 5 in the machine.
Within just nine hours after the installation, more than 600 sanitary napkins were collected by the female passengers. Also, the people from nearby slum areas also came forward to avail this facility. Only 500 napkins were provided at first by the machine monitoring company. But when the machine ran out of the stock they had to refill it with another 500 pads.
The machine is being called as “Happy Nari” and it was installed at platform number 1 by Railway Women Welfare Association of Bhopal with the help of local NGO, Arushi. On the day of New Year senior-most class-four worker in the station, Anjali Thakur inaugurated it in the presence of railway officials. After cutting the ribbon, she inserted a five rupees coin and withdrew sanitary napkins.
The machine has a capacity to store 75 napkins at a time. It will be refilled by a specially trained female staff attendant at the waiting room who has the key to operate it.
Bhopal’s Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Shobhan Chaudhri said to NDTV, “When the plan was chalked out to install the machines, we studied several areas of menstrual hygiene and were shocked to know the low awareness levels especially among the rural women. We also found out in a local survey that the demand for sanitary napkins is huge in urban areas but due to the affordability issue, they are forced to use other means that hamper their health. Girls dropping out from schools as soon as they hit puberty is another challenge India is facing.”
Mr. Chaudhuri believes that this step can break the taboo attached to menstrual hygiene for a very long time. “The vending machine is a very noble effort taken to ease the travelling experience for women. Considering the minimal price of the napkins even the lower sections of the society can use them”, he added.
Monitoring in-charge Subodh Kulkarni said to TOI, “This machine makes easy availability and accessibility of sanitary napkins for female passengers. Even before the inauguration, there were few women who asked us for napkins. We helped them by giving it away from the stock. One of the passengers thanked us as her train was to leave the platform soon when she was in need.”
He also promised to try to keep it well-maintained and encourage female passengers through advertisements to use the facility.
This initiative is surely a significant measure taken to break the menstrual taboos and spread awareness and sensitivity about menstrual hygiene ensuring a healthier future for women in India.