In third world countries like Pakistan, women are usually treated like second class citizens. Many are not given their due rights, and the inequality between the genders keeps increasing with time. In rural areas of Pakistan, women tackle health issues at home. Problems related to menstruation, pregnancy and sexual health are shoved under the rug, due to which many women lead poor quality lives. During natural disasters like the current flood, efforts are made to provide people with food, shelter, and medical facilities, but there is little to no focus on the provision of sanitary products or pregnancy related products. This time around, many female-driven NGOs and feminist individuals have come forward to help the female population affected by the floods.
Many women used their social media platforms to reinforce the idea that sanitary products are a necessity and not a luxury, and therefore the flood affected must be provided with pads, cotton rolls, and underwear so that they can easily and hygienically get through their days of menstruation. However, there was an outcry from many men of the nation who do not understand how menstruation works. Most were of the opinion that sanitary products were a luxury and not a necessity. To counter this false claim, women educate people by telling them that menstruation does not stop during a crisis situation, it is only women who have to face double the discomfort.
The social media campaigns did have a positive effect as many NGOs and those who were collecting relief packages listed sanitary products as a priority item. However, another issue was realised, and it was that women in these areas are not accustomed to using sanitary pads. They use cotton pads covered with cloth and so now people are collecting these items. Another problem that is being witnessed at the flood affected areas is that women are not allowed to visit these camps and men are not taking these items as they have little to knowledge of what they are used for. In many areas of South Punjab and Sindh women are refusing to take these items as the idea of hiding menstruation is deeply instilled in them.
It is a sad state of affairs as more than half of the population is completely neglected in such difficult times. Even though, this time around efforts have been made to make the life of women in the affected areas easier but the lack of awareness and education makes them deny their basic rights or they are not allowed by the men to take any such help. According to UNFPA, there are over 650,000 pregnant women in the flooded areas. With the rampant spread of diseases and lack of proper hygiene, the infant mortality and the death in childbirth rate will exponentially increase. Efforts must be made to provide proper facilities to women so that they can live through their menstruation and childbirth and postpartum period with ease. There should be lady doctors visiting the area and guidance counselors who will guide the men as to how they should treat their women during this vulnerable time.