Srinagar: A remarkable women’s group from the remote village Shahgund nestled in the scenic landscapes of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district has taken the initiative to produce and promote sanitary napkins. Comprising eleven dedicated members, their mission is to spread awareness about women’s health and hygiene in every village and far-flung area of Kashmir. Raziya, the owner of the unit, shared her vision, expressing the group’s determination to improve the lives of rural women while earning a livelihood.
Raziya pointed out that many women in villages and remote areas lack knowledge about health and hygiene, leaving them vulnerable to various diseases and health issues. She said,
We decided to provide them with knowledge and raise awareness about hygiene. In our village, Shahgund, we distribute sanitary products to women. However, our ultimate goal is to extend our reach to every village in Kashmir and spread health and hygiene awareness among women.
Inspired by the formation of a Self Help Group and supported by the ‘JKRLM UMEED scheme, the group embarked on thorough research in their surroundings. The findings revealed a dire need to educate women about the benefits of using sanitary pads.
Raziya emphasized that in their research, they discovered that many women were unaware of the proper use of sanitary napkins. She added,
Instead, they have been resorting to using clothes or fabrics, which can lead to numerous health problems.
Recognizing the significance of providing women with essential knowledge, one of the group members, Zahida, passionately stated,
Access to proper hygiene products is a fundamental right for women. By distributing sanitary napkins and raising awareness about their usage, we are not only ensuring their health and well-being but also empowering them to lead fulfilling lives.
Another member, Farida, added,
We want to break the stigma surrounding women’s health and hygiene. It’s high time we normalize open discussions and provide women with the information they need to make informed choices about their bodies and health.
Shareen Shafi, the District Program Manager for Institution Building and Capacity Building (IB/CB), spoke to the media about the group’s unique idea for producing sanitary napkins. The Self-Help Group (SHG) members received comprehensive training to ensure the successful operation of the unit. This support from JKRLM enabled them to not only script their own success story but also earn a sustainable livelihood.
“Empowering women economically is a crucial step towards gender equality,” Shareen affirmed. The women’s group in Shahgund has demonstrated immense determination and resilience in establishing this sanitary napkin production unit. Their efforts not only improve the health and well-being of women but also contribute to their financial independence.
Though still in its nascent stage, the unit has already been able to produce 1000 to 1200 sanitary napkins daily, all thanks to the collective efforts of the group members. Raziya also mentioned that the cost of their napkins is comparatively low, making them affordable for women in the region. Buoyed by their initial success, the group aspires to increase their production to around 2000 pieces per day and eagerly awaits an official launching ceremony to introduce their products to the market.
Reflecting on the impact of their initiative, Raziya shared,
We have witnessed a positive change in the lives of women in our village. They now have access to hygienic and affordable sanitary napkins, which were previously considered a luxury. This not only boosts their confidence but also safeguards their health.
The women’s group in Shahgund serves as an inspiring example of grassroots initiatives aimed at improving the lives of rural women. By spreading awareness about women’s health and hygiene and producing sanitary napkins, they are empowering women to prioritize their well-being and take control of their bodies.
Their dedication and passion are driving positive change, not just within their village, but throughout the entire region of Kashmir.
As the word spreads about their efforts, women from neighbouring villages have expressed their gratitude and support for the group’s mission. Parveen, a resident of a nearby village, shared,
I am grateful to the women’s group for their initiative. They have opened our eyes to the importance of hygiene and provided us with a practical solution. Now, we can take care of ourselves without compromising our health.
The impact of the group’s work extends beyond the production of sanitary napkins. They have become catalysts for breaking down societal taboos surrounding women’s health. By initiating open discussions and addressing the stigma associated with menstruation, the women’s group is fostering a more inclusive and supportive community.
Aisha, a young girl from Shahgund, expressed her admiration for the group, saying,
I used to feel ashamed and embarrassed during my periods. But now, thanks to the women’s group, I understand that it is a natural process, and I have the right to take care of myself. I aspire to be like them and make a difference in the lives of other girls.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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.