New Delhi: “Since childhood, I have seen my mother suffer during those 4-5 days. I have seen her going through all the pain. I have witnessed the problems associated with the word ‘menstruation’ and how taboo is linked to menstruation. I am from Odisha, there we observe a three-day festival called Raja Parba, which is to celebrate womanhood. If we rejoice womanhood then why consider menstruation as taboo?”, asks 32-year-old Poonam Maahanand, founder of Nischay, an organisation that works for women, children and rural development. The problems her mother has faced and how menstruation is treated in our country forced Poonam to bring together people from different walks of life and bring about a change.
The journey of change started last year on May 28 which is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Day. The idea was to uplift rural women with the help of urban women. In the same direction, Poonam and his team started visiting different blocks, panchayats, in Jamshedpur and took awareness sessions.
Just like education, it is important for women and girls to pay attention to their health. Through workshops, awareness programmes, we started educating them about menstruation and the importance of menstrual hygiene, says Tarun Kumar, Secretary, Nischay.
During the awareness sessions, the team realised that the problem in rural area is such women and girls have never used sanitary napkins, reason being, lack of information, accessibility and affordability. They rely on unhygienic alternatives. In order to provide them an access to sanitary pads, the team started a campaign ‘Mission 5,000’ back in April 2018.
Mission 5,000 aims to procure 5,000 packets of sanitary napkins by this Menstrual Hygiene Day and then initiate PadBank in 40 government schools. For this, the team approaches urban women and enlighten them about the problem prevailing in the rural areas and how they can contribute.
Like schools have library, now they will have PadBanks. Every PadBank will have two Menstrual Hygiene Ambassadors from the school itself, who will not only take care of PadBank, but also educate fellow classmates, tells Tarun.
Till,today, Nischay has collected 1,600 sanitary napkin packets through donation. As soon as they manage to collect 5,000 packets, the procedure of establishing PadBanks in government schools will begin.
There are numerous government policies which provide sanitary napkins to less privileged girls and women, but there are schools which go unnoticed and our aim is to reach every nook and corner. PadBanks will provide a pack of sanitary napkins at a very nominal rate. We won’t distribute it for free because as soon as you give it for free, people take it for granted. We want to establish a sense of responsibility and understanding among girls. We want them to save Rs. 10-15 for a monthly pack of sanitary napkins, for their health, signs off Poonam.
The money generated by selling sanitary pads to girls will be used to purchase more pads. The organisation is also in conversation with various manufacturers who can provide low-cost sanitary napkins on a no profit basis.