New Delhi: Tanvi Mishra's harrowing experience of using paper towels as she did not have sanitary napkins on a 14-hour-long train journey has given shape to a petition urging the railway ministry to install sanitary pad vending machines on board trains.
In the petition on Change.org, which has garnered almost 8,000 signatures since it was started three weeks back, Mishra, a 27-year-old engineer, details her experience on board the Gorakhpur-bound Humsafar Express from here.
"Didi aapke paas pad hoga kya? (Sister, do you have a pad?) Mere paas to nahin hai, tumhen lekar chalna chahiye na! (I don't have it, you should carry it yourself!)
Lekar chalti hun par (I carry it but)... Train me pad kahan milega tumhen! Ye tissue paper le lo. (You won't get pads on a train. Take these tissue papers," she writes recalling her ordeal.
Responding to a query on the issue, Railways said it has already started installing sanitary pad vending machines at railway stations.
"The East Coast Railways has in fact installed 91 such machines in 36 trains already," an official said.
Mishra said, "My periods started unexpectedly during a 14-hour long train journey. There wasn't any sanitary pad vending machine in the train either, that could rescue me in that dreadful situation. I somehow managed with my handkerchief and few tissue papers."
"I spent the rest of my journey sitting like a stone in the corner of the seat, praying that the terrifying journey ends soon," she said adding women who will read this will identify with the situation.
She said that installing sanitary vending machines on board trains would "empower millions of women."
In her petition to the railway minister, she has not just asked for such machines, but also separate toilets for women – and she wants these issues to be part of the discourse around women's empowerment during the 2019 general elections.
"The 2019 elections are here, almost all political parties will talk about women empowerment and the rights of women... Let's join hands together so that women's issues are given priority in the next election. It becomes a priority for the next government.
"I've started this petition because I feel that it's the right of every Indian woman to have basic menstrual hygiene facilities on trains," she wrote in the petition.