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Under the name of religion and honor, women in Pakistan have been subjugated since as long as they can remember. This act of open persecution and infringement of rudimentary human rights has branched out into numerous social inconveniences. This includes the ripples caused by the lack of women empowerment.
Women in Pakistan have been told for far too long that their health concerns do not exceed the family honor. The very fact that these women are not aware of the existence of sanitary pads and the detrimental effects of using rough cloth during their menstruation cycle unveils the health crisis we live in.
Other than this, the case becomes even more terrifying when women, who are aware of this so-called luxury, are told not to go out on their own to buy this very basic commodity for they shall, otherwise, become a blemish in the family bloodline.
This overly sanctimonious ideology of mansplaining women to stay confined into the house has plagued the lives of many. They have been molded in a way to believe that stepping out to claim their right to hygiene is cheap and/or suggestive.
The constant reminder of letting a man buy them pads or eradicating the concept of pads on a whole to completely eradicate the hassle has subconsciously or even consciously made women feel they will always be dependent on the opposite gender for their concerns.
In my quest to help these women and to make a small revolutionary act, I set up a clinic in one of Karachi’s slums so as to interview women from underprivileged backgrounds and to educate them. With the help of a few nurses from my father’s hospital and a box full of sanitary pads and iron tablets, we arrived at around 10 am at Chanesar Goth.
Initially, it was delightful to see that many women approached the clinic and wanted to learn more about their bodies. Some even shared their experiences about feeling hegemonized by various men from the families and particularly from their villages.
What was particularly devastating and troubling was the fact that one of these strong ladies, Asma*, who had her emotions forcefully diluted and dismissed due to persistent domination, suffered from a miscarriage because the family of the said woman was too ashamed to get her checked up by a doctor after several instances of her private part’s discomfort.
Maybe for us, it’s okay to let a mother carry a child she won’t be able to give birth to but not enlighten these women of how to stay healthy. Maybe it is also okay for us to let these women suffer from future complications like fistula due to lack of menstruation hygiene. Maybe for us, all that matter is the indoctrination of religion to tilt the odds in the favor of man.
Later that day, I realized another flaw within our social justice system. Certain women, all very eager to get their sanitary pads did not really want to change their habits of using dry rough cloth during menstruation and wanted to get hold of as many packets as they could (since they were being given for free).
These women knew that their use of such alternatives resulted in rashes and pregnancy complications, but the cost of this product let alone with taxes is already too high for them to afford. We fail our women when we tax something so elementary, being completely dismissive of the fact that these pads are not a token of grandiosity. It’s high time we as privileged individuals make an initiative to help these women.
By giving out even a single packet of the pad to any destitute woman we see can help in this noble cause. And if not that, we can start by educating maids we hire in our very homes and ask them to pass on these teachings to their daughters and so on.
*Names have been changed to maintain privacy