- In Maharashtra’s Belaj, group of men and women are producing sanitary kit
- The reusable sanitary kit costs Rs. 200, can be used for two years
- Each reusable sanitary kit consists of 2 waterproof shields, 8 liners, soap
New Delhi: While the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has taken away the livelihood of many, a group of men and women from Belaj village in Maharashtra’s Pune is making ends meet and at the same time promoting menstrual hygiene by stitching reusable sanitary napkin kits, all thanks to WASH – Women, Sanitation, Hygiene project undertaken by Humans For Humanity, a Dehradun based NGO (non-governmental organisation). 25-year-old Anurag Chauhan, founder of Humans For Humanity never thought his initiative to remove the word ‘taboo’ from menstruation and promote menstrual hygiene will one day become a source of income for many people.
The initiative to create awareness about menstrual hygiene dates back to 2015 when Anurag initiated WASH. Recalling the same, Anurag said,
In 2015 when I started WASH the idea was simply to raise awareness among women and girls of all age groups. As part of this, we would organise awareness sessions and activities like pickle making, planting the holy plant Tulsi, we would go to temples and talk about periods. This was all to bust myths like women should not touch pickle while they are menstruating else it will get spoiled, women should not enter temples while they are on their periods, so on and so forth.
Along with this, in 2018, Anurag started distributing low cost eco-friendly sanitary napkins made of cotton cloth by workers in the villages and the volunteers of Humans For Humanity for free. But the question was until when he will be able to do so?
Providing free pads to women make them dependent on me and I never wanted that. The idea is to educate these women and make them independent, said Anurag.
Pursuing his idea, in 2019, Anurag along with his team of volunteers undertook the initiative to teach women to make reusable sanitary pad kits. Each sanitary kit costing Rs. 200 consists of two waterproof shields, eight absorbent liners, bar soap, zip lock bags and a guidance chart. The waterproof shield made of cotton cloth looks like a regular cloth pad. While using, a liner made of PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) sheet needs to be put inside the waterproof shield which can then be attached to the underpants.
Both the waterproof shield and liner are washable and reusable and can be used for two years. These cotton pads are completely safe to use and any day better than women using ash, rug, husk and other unhygienic things during their periods, said Anurag.
Reusable Sanitary Napkin Kits Ensure Menstrual Hygiene, Provide Income To Women
Elaborating on the same, Jalpa H Vithalani, State Director for Humans For Humanity in Maharashtra said,
I’m an alumnus of H.R. College of Commerce and Economics. Last year, my juniors contacted me for their project Inaayat focused at providing menstrual hygiene supplies to women. Since Inaayat and Humans For Humanity were working on the same lines, we started by outsourcing Inaayat kits.
Later Humans For Humanity (HFH) started an independent project in Maharashtra’s Belaj village where a group of men and women were taught to prepare reusable sanitary napkin kits. As part of this, HFH provides all the raw material to the group involved in the production of these kits and also pay them for their labour. The kits are procured by HFH and distributed among women residing in different states, for free. Currently, the HFH team is working in six states – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru.
Until a few years ago I didn’t know much about menstruation and pads. One day, Jalpa didi (state director for HFH in Maharashtra) conducted an awareness session in a nearby temple and taught us about the importance of menstrual hygiene and how we can make pads at home. My wife works on a farm and I work in a nearby factory but because of the lockdown, the factory is closed and the income has dropped drastically. At this time, the money we get from making sanitary pads is proving to be of great help, said Bhau Khokane, from Belaj village, who helps his wife Pushpa and other women in producing these kits. Bhau Khokane also accompanies Jalpa to neighbouring villages for various educational and awareness sessions.
According to Anurag, Belaj village is a success story for the team as it’s one of those villages where the word taboo and menstruation don’t go hand in hand. Women of Belaj village are well aware of the problems concerning lack of menstrual hygiene and improper disposal of sanitary pads. These women now train other women and multiply the efforts of HFH.
Poor menstrual hygiene is a problem which we all need to deal with. We need to throw this thing out of our system that menstruation is a problem and it only concerns women. I have been targeted for organising workshops in temples and breaking taboos. I have been targeted for being a man and talking about menstruation. But, I’ll reiterate, we all have come from a womb and together we need to address the issues surrounding menstruation and create more villages like Belaj, signed off Anurag.