- Amid COVID-19, underprivileged girls faced major issues in accessing pads
- Varanasi’s Diksha & Deepika ensured pads to girls in need through WhatsApp
- They also manufactured their own pads and distributed door-to-door
New Delhi: The pandemic has impacted lives of adolescent girls in many ways. Situation was considerably hard, for those girls who were from the underprivileged background. The nationwide lockdown imposed to prevent COVID-19 in the country, only made lives of these girls tougher. While, maximum focus of the relief work during pandemic was on providing food and medical support, sanitary pads was one basic necessity that could get much focus.
With schools being shut, distribution of sanitary pads from schools also came to halt compelling many girls to opt unhygienic methods during menstruation.
However, there were 2 social workers from Varanasi who introduced innovative ideas through mobile apps to extend helping hands and support to hundreds of adolescent girls from underprivileged background during pandemic.
Deeksha Singh and Deepika Bhattacharya, who work in the slums of Varanasi city in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY)’s partner organisation – Dr Shambhunath Singh Research Foundation, became hope for many adolescent girls during their toughest times amid the pandemic.
As the underprivileged families were facing massive financial crisis during pandemic, buying sanitary pads for girls at home was the last thing to be thought about. This led to major mental stress for many girls in the slum areas where the duo worked.
Deeksha and Deepika not only distributed sanitary pads to the adolescent girls door to door amidst the fear of pandemic, but also worked vigorously on the adolescent health through a WhatsApp group called “Shaktipari Whatsapp Group”. The members of the group were adolescent girls from the project area where they work.
While distributing pads door to door we realised these girls were going through a lot during pandemic. Especially, when it came to menstrual hygiene, their situation was heartbreaking. It took us years to sensitise the community and make girls and women aware of using sanitary pads in periods but disruption in the supply of pads compelled these girls to use unhygienic means, Diksha told NDTV.
Also, they were facing a lot of other issues and we realised it was important to connect with them on regular basis to get to know about their issues and finding solutions for them, shared Deepika and added,
Thus, we decided to connect with as much girls as we can through WhatsApp.
As they were in constant touch with the adolescent girls, they realised financial crisis was a major challenge and buying sanitary pads from market cannot be an affordable option for these girls.
This compelled Diksha and Deepika to think beyond their limitation and they decided to manufacture their own version of sanitary pad, that can be recycled.
We had a few samples of such sanitary pads made of cloth in stock. These pads were provided to us by CRY a year ago and only a few samples were left. We thoroughly analysed these samples to understand how they were made and decided to manufacture our own version of recyclable pads. We collected clean cotton cloths and other things that were needed to stitch pads and distributed it door to door during lockdown. Interestingly, we received good feedback from girls regarding the pads that we made, said Diksha.
However, not every child in their project area had mobile phone and internet. To bridge this gap, Diksha and Deepika started community mobilisation and convinced those people who had smartphones in the slums to give it to the girls who want to attend online classes for an hour so that their studies are not discontinued.
Despite their family being concerned about their health amid the pandemic, these 2 young women decided to reach out to those in need ignoring the risk to their own health. Thus, changing the disaster into an opportunity. The sanitary pads are now being used and even made by many adolescents’ girls by their own. Online counselling provided by them to young girls helped many adolescents to overcome psychological pressure.
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.