"Not As Bad As India" – Zahid's Daughter Laughs At Period Poverty Claims By Women Advocate

"I am alert about [period poverty]. But not in Malaysia. And it's not like pad prices are sky-high either," she said.

Cover image via Malaysiakini & Jovesa Naisua/The Guardian

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Datuk Nurul Hidayah, daughter of UMNO president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has received backlash for making light of issues concerning period poverty in Malaysia

In an Instagram post on Saturday, 30 October, Nurul Hidayah made remarks that dismissed claims that women who cannot afford sanitary pads resort to getting pregnant to avoid menstruating.

She was responding to a statement made by Pejuang Women's Youth wing (Pejuanita Muda) chief Dr Nurul Ashikin Mabahwi, who said in a Sinar Harian article that all women in the B40 community should be given free sanitary pads to help curb the issue.

Addressing Nurul Ashikin in the Instagram post, Nurul Hidayah mockingly wrote, "Kak, my husband asked if they do not wear the free sanitary napkins, will they definitely get pregnant, or how does it work?"

Nurul Hidayah also said the headline was only "inviting (criticism)" as she has never heard of specialist doctors recommending the use of free pads to prevent pregnancies, and added many laughing emojis in the caption.

The post triggered many angry comments with netizens criticising the businesswoman for dismissing the seriousness of period poverty

In the comments, Nurul Hidayah continued to defend her post by saying that the issue does not exist in Malaysia and reiterated that the Sinar Harian headline was hilarious to her.

"I am alert about [period poverty]. But not in Malaysia. And it's not like pad prices are sky-high either. I do research on pads, and I've launched a menstrual pad brand so I know," she said in a reply to a comment.

She further claimed that the period poverty in Malaysia is not comparable to India, as there are zakat centres and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) here to help.

In another Instagram post, she instead advocated for B40 women to be taught and equipped with the knowledge of menstrual hygiene and family planning as a more sustainable approach than just distributing free pads to them.

"Not to argue or disagree. But until when do we want to teach them to receive, instead of giving the B40 women enough knowledge to stand on their own feet?"

Image via Malaysiakini

Pejuanita Muda chief Nurul Ashikin has since responded to Nurul Hidayah's Instagram rant and disagreed with her approach, implying that rich women would find it hard to understand

On Monday, 1 November, Nurul Ashikin tweeted, "Awareness of period poverty is not only directed to men, but also rich women who think period poverty is not relevant, such as written in Nurul Hidayah's Instagram."

"Everyone has to understand that struggling women do not have access to family planning knowledge. So they often only think of short term solutions, such as not buying sanitary pads for nine months," said the advocate.

In the thread and later tweets, Nurul Ashikin explained that it may not be easy to believe that B40 women would resort to pregnancy to avoid their periods, but it happens because they are often pushed to the brink of desperation due to having no money.

She added that B40 communities would definitely benefit from monthly free and disposable sanitary pads because many still do not have immediate opportunities to learn about or afford family planning and many more do not have access to running water to wash reusable sanitary towels.

Their statements come after the government announced they will provide free sanitary kits to teenage girls from B40 families:

In August, a woman in Perak brought attention to period poverty after meeting a girl who could not afford to buy pads in her neighbourhood:

Meanwhile, Nurul Hidayah was once given a warning by the High Court for making comments about her father's trial on Instagram: