New Delhi: The COVID-19 induced lockdown was a period of hardship for many but it also painted a beautiful picture of the environment – clear blue sky, birds chirping on lush green trees, low levels of pollution and clean water bodies. Though the impact of COVID-19 on the environment was short term, the message it gave out was loud and clear – the environment is the basis of life and it is about time we protect it. Taking this lesson from COVID-19 forward, Tarun Kumar, Secretary, Nischay, a Jamshedpur based organisation that works for women, children and rural development, started a campaign called ‘Ek Pad, Ek Ped’ (one sanitary pad, one tree) in East Singhbhum district of the state.
Talking about the idea behind the campaign, Tarun Kumar said,
NGO Nischay has been promoting menstrual hygiene among girls and women for almost four years now. Firstly, in rural areas, girls and women are not ready to talk about menstrual hygiene and use sanitary napkins. Secondly, there is a lack of awareness about the disposal of sanitary waste. Girls, who use sanitary pads, dispose of the waste openly in the village or lakes which pose a threat to the environment. To educate girls about safe disposal practices and make them take responsibility for their sanitary waste, we started a campaign called ‘Ek Pad, Ek Ped’ last year on the World Environment Day.
As per Menstrual Hygiene Management National guidelines, ‘safe disposal’ means ensuring that the process of destruction of used and soiled materials is done without human contact and with minimal environmental pollution. According to the guidelines, Mr Kumar and his team of volunteers educate rural girls about on-site disposal that includes burying sanitary waste for decomposition and burning the soiled napkins. Further elaborating on the waste disposal practices, 18-year-old Supriti Kisku, a volunteer at NGO Nischay said,
Ideally, both the on-site disposal practices are not very environment friendly as usually the pads are made of cellulose but in rural areas, these are the only options available. But if we are harming the environment in one way, it is also our responsibility to safeguard it in another way and the easiest way to do it is by planting more and more trees.
Mr Kumar also said that NGO Nischay tried to install electric incinerators in some of the schools in the district but due to lack of funds, the project couldn’t cover all the schools. NGO is now trying to install incinerators at a community level.
As part of the campaign, Mr Kumar and his team of volunteers often distribute a sapling along with a packet of sanitary napkins and urge girls to plant a tree during every menstrual cycle. Further talking about how the team ensures that girls not only plant a sapling but also nurture it, Baidnath Hansda Musabani, one of the volunteers said,
We have village level volunteers who go, meet girls and check their plants. Often girls share pictures of their plant over WhatsApp. The idea is that every girl should plant at least one tree a month but even if they plant 5-6 in a year, together they can make a huge difference in making their village and district clean and green.
The project is being implemented under the guidance of Padma Shri Jamuna Tudu, working towards preventing illegal felling of trees in Jharkhand since 1998. Ms Tudu also asserted that since currently there is no safer alternative available for disposal of sanitary waste, the least we can do is to increase the green cover and reap its benefits.
Mr Kumar informed that so far around 5,000 saplings of native trees like Mango, Guava, Neem, Papaya, among others have been planted. Some of the girls have also taken up kitchen gardening as part of the campaign which in turn can result in their improved nutrition levels, added Mr Kumar.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) for the year 2015-16, 66.6 per cent of the women (15-49 years) in East Singhbhum are anaemic. The prevalence of anameia among women is more in rural areas of the district than urban areas. Talking about the same and their campaign, Mr Kumar said,
The issue of poor nutrition and anaemia prevail among the intervention district. Due to space constraints in some of the villages and houses, we are promoting kitchen garden as well. We believe that girls and their families will benefit from it.\
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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