New Delhi: Around 23 million girls drop-out of school annually in India due to a lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities, which include the availability of sanitary pads and information about menstruation, a 2019 report by NGO Dasra stated. Menstrual health is one of the most important and sensitive health issues in the country that has been less talked about, ignored, and neglected even at the policy level.
The issue caught the eye of a 15-year-old Bengaluru resident, Ananya Malde. Ms. Malde has founded a project called ‘Pragati’ that works towards raising awareness about menstrual health and hygiene among the girls in the rural parts of India, with an aim to reduce their drop-out rates from school.
The reason for launching the project is even more interesting. Ms. Malde had witnessed her domestic help’s daughter dropping out of school after her menstrual cycle started. She was unaware of the existence of such a practice— leaving school after getting periods.
Ms. Malde was shocked to learn that more than 23 million girls in India leave school every year due to menstruation. The incident was imprinted in her mind, and she wanted to reach out to girls of her age and older to eradicate the practice, and she finally got a chance to do so through a flagship programme.
Ms. Malde launched her project ‘Pragati’, after enrolling with the Bengaluru-based organisation 1M1B’s (1 Million for 1 Billion) Programme – Future Leaders.
Ms. Malde’s project ‘Pragati’ is primarily based out of her hometown, Gujarat, specifically in Kutch/Kachchh.
I went online to find menstrual health resources because my initial plan was to teach the girls about it through whatever content was available online. But I discovered that there was no content in the local language, and the ones I found did not cover the specific issue of the people living in the area.
Ms. Malde discovered that the problem was intertwined with other issues as she dug deeper into it. She found out that most of rural India suffered from a lack of proper menstrual education and access to clean and cheap menstrual hygiene products.
Observing this, Ms. Malde conducted multiple awareness sessions in a few schools in Gujarat. During these sessions, she interacted with over 100 girls and learned about their experiences.
She then decided to formulate a comprehensive curriculum on menstrual health in three languages: Gujarati, English, and Hindi. She surveyed 75–100 girls in rural Gujarat, spoke with the Sarpanchs of three villages and took note of all the problems to create the appropriate curriculum.
The people there are not educated enough to speak in Hindi or English. The communities primarily converse in either Gujarati or Kutchi/Kachchhi. So when I was formulating a curriculum, I worked on it in the Gujarati language, apart from Hindi and English.
Ms. Malde supplemented the efforts by setting up a fundraiser to provide girls from the rural hinterlands with sanitary pads and incinerators.
To date, Project Pragati has managed to impact a total of 1,020 girls across different regions in India. Additionally, Ms. Malde has distributed nearly 30,000 sanitary pads made out of straw and bamboo. Additionally, she was able to install incinerators in two schools. She has also conducted several sessions in Bengaluru with students belonging to low-income families.
Recently, Ms. Malde presented her project at the United Nations through the 1M1B’s (1 Million for 1 Billion) flagship programme.
1 Million for 1 Billion
1M1B engages and enables youth to become future ready problem solvers creating real world impact. Established in 2014, 1M1B is a United Nations accredited non-profit with special consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is associated with the UN Department of Global Communications.
Through their flagship programme, Future Leaders, 1M1B helps the youth acquire critical skill sets, mindset and toolsets to resolve social issues.
The youth enrolled with the programme undergo a leadership curriculum based on their innovation and entrepreneurial thinking and are mentored to create impact through projects based on their fields of interest and passion. The solutions developed address real world issues such as poverty, wage gap, unemployment, climate change etc through new age tools and mindsets.
Based on the impact created, top students from the programme are selected to participate in a 3-day immersion at New York with an opportunity to showcase their impact at the annual 1M1B Activate Impact Summit at the United Nations Headquarters.
For her project and its impact, Ms. Malde was honoured as ‘New Yorker’s Favourite’ award by the United Nations and 1M1B on the 2022 1M1B Activate Impact Summit held on December 14.
Ms. Malde used her passion to go where no one dared to go. Menstruation has long been taboo in India’s villages, and by addressing the dual problems of education and access, she has provided a blueprint that can be executed across India with the same rigour that she displayed in her home state of Gujarat.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.