New Delhi: We live in a time when almost 88 per cent women in India still do not use sanitary pads. The reason being most of them cannot afford the most basic necessity for their hygiene, a sanitary napkin. And, yet it has a whopping 12 per cent of Goods and Services Tax on them, while bindi, sindoor and kajal are exempted from GST. For Manushi Chhillar, the newly crowned Miss World, this is a sad reality and that’s why she is using the Miss World platform to highlight the urgent need for increase menstrual hygiene awareness in India. Manushi hails from Haryana and her life’s mission is also to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene through her initiative Project Shakti. She adds,
I am a medical student, not a doctor yet, but I am not voiceless. And the fact is that millions of women in India lack the access to safe and affordable menstrual hygiene management. I have realised education alone is not enough to tackle this problem of menstrual hygiene in India. We need to give women a sustainable system that will allow them to practise menstrual hygiene. And, definitely, sanitary napkins should be available at a very low cost so that every woman in India is able to afford this basic necessity.
The 20-year-old, Manushi Chhillar who after winning Femina Miss India World 2017 in May, represented India and won the coveted Miss World title. Manushi spoke to NDTV during her homecoming since winning the Miss World title. Talking about Project Shakti,
It is a project with an aim. Shakti means “Power.” Through my project, I want to empower each and every woman. We have already covered more than 20 villages in India, what we do is simple. We go to the villages and educate not just women but men, about the menstrual hygiene and why a woman needs a sanitary napkin during her menstrual days. Apart from education, we distribute low-cost sanitary napkins to them and create employment opportunities by encouraging them to join the sanitary pads manufacturing unit in their area.
Manushi Chhillar has joined hands with a manufacturer of sanitary pads called Paree and Walmart to supply sanitary pads in rural India. The supply from Walmart to the homes encourages women from the villages to become entrepreneurs.
Talking about the reason why she thought of starting this project, Manushi added,
It is a scary reality that girls and women in rural areas are using not just clothes but also hay during their menstruation which is causing a lot of infections to them. In India, maximum cases of anemia are there. To fight this, I started Project Shakti.
She further adds,
No one wants to talk about menstruation in India, there is an urgent need to start the conversation about this issue that is often regarded as a subject that is taboo. People should understand that menstruation is a very natural process that every girl undergoes. They should know a woman is never alone. She needs to take care of her family and that’s why it is important that she take cares of herself. Because, if she remains in good physical shape, her entire family remains healthy.
Through Project Shakti, Manushi aims to touch millions of lives that are affected. She signs off by saying,
Now that I have a Miss World crown, I know I will take my Project Shakti to a very big scale.