Thursday May 30, 2024

Women’s group tackles taboo subject to aid flood victims

September 02, 2022

LAHORE: As aid organisations mobilise to provide relief for victims of Pakistan´s catastrophic floods, one group of women is focused on a necessity that is frequently taboo in the conservative Islamic nation -- menstrual hygiene products.

Over 30 million people have been affected by floods, half of the victims are women and girls. “Periods do not stop during floods. Women need this assistance,” said Bushra Mahnoor, a university student in eastern Lahore who founded the Mahwari Justice campaign to provide help.Since June, Mahnoor and colleague Anum Khalid have mobilised friends and volunteers to raise money to buy, pack and distribute emergency sanitary kits containing pads, underwear and soap.

Each kit costs just Rs200, but can make an enormous difference for women trying to retain their dignity in desperate times. Calls to the manufacturers of period products went unanswered, so Mahnoor haggles with wholesalers in Lahore´s bazaars to get the lowest possible rates for the kits. Mahwari Justice has already sent thousands of kits to some of the worst-hit areas, but their reach is set to get even bigger.

After a social media appeal, dozens of girls and women volunteered to help pack the kits.Mahnoor says she met resistance when she first spoke to men about the kind of specialised help she wanted her group to provide and asked for help in distribution. “Menstruation is a big taboo in Pakistan and it was not easy,” she said.

On social media, the campaign has been accused of pursuing a “liberal agenda”, taking away funds from more worthwhile causes such as food and medicine. Mahnoor said even her own family has tried to stop her from being so public. “My mother tells me I´m being such a shameless woman for even talking about menstruation so openly,” she said.