Not just a women’s issue

Every little bit counts: Goh (left) handing out sanitary pads to underprivileged women.

JOHOR BARU: Menstruation tends to be a taboo topic for Asians but two men from Johor are on a mission to help less privileged women – by providing them with sanitary pads.

JiShan Single Mothers Club chairman Goh Teck Kuan has been assisting single mums for about seven years and he recently started distributing sanitary pads to the poor as some have been forced to recycle their disposable pads.

He took over the task from the late former Gelang Patah MP Tan Ah Eng, who chaired the South Johor Single Mothers Association back then.

Tan, who was Johor Wanita MCA deputy chief, passed away in 2013 after a battle with brain cancer.

“I was her personal assistant back then and after she passed away, I took over in 2014 and changed the name in 2018. We also started giving out food aid and helped them look for job opportunities instead of just giving financial aid,” he told The Star.

He added that sanitary pads were essential personal hygiene products for women but not all could afford them.

He made the shocking discovery after meeting a woman who resorted to reusing her sanitary pads in a desperate move to save money during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I was curious to see sanitary pads hanging at the recipient’s clothesline and asked her about it.

“I was caught off guard when she said she reuses her disposable sanitary pads by washing and hanging them to dry under the sun.

“This is bad practice which will affect her personal hygiene and health,” he said.

His team started purchasing sanitary pads in bulk and through online sales in order to distribute the products to underprivileged women since July this year.

“We did a simple survey: when asked to chose between sanitary pads and a pack of biscuits, 10 out of 10 women opted for sanitary pads.

“The Federal Government also recently announced in the Budget 2022 that free feminine hygiene kits will be given to young women in the B40 category and I hope that the relevant agencies will see that the items are really distributed to those in need,” he added.

Similarly, Suria Johor Baru Foundation founder James Ho said he started including sanitary pads in the packs of food aid given away to underprivileged families.

“Many women from poor families cannot afford the essential item but they are too shy to tell us when we give them food aid, as we are men.

“It should not be a taboo subject as periods are natural body functions – my wife and daughter have them, too,” he said, adding that he was contacting a sanitary pad company to sponsor some products for the underprivileged.

Meanwhile, the Darul Ta’zim Family Development Foundation chief executive officer Nurul Naqiah Fadzil said the Johor state agency previously distributed food aid and personal hygiene kits that included sanitary pads to children who lost their parents to Covid-19.

“We realise that they need help and personal hygiene products like pads, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste which are essential items, too,” she said.

In the Budget 2020 announcement on Oct 29, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the free feminine hygiene kits would benefit some 130,000 youth nationwide, adding that the free kit would be provided monthly.

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