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Menstrual Hygiene

This Father-Daughter Duo From Delhi Is Working Towards Ending Period Poverty In India

The father-daughter’s passion to end period poverty moved them to create a foundation called ‘Pinkishe’. The foundation has several women volunteers from all walks of life, including, who are raising awareness on menstrual hygiene and health

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This Father-Daughter Duo From Delhi Is Working Towards Ending Period Poverty In India
The foundation aims to raise a community of 100,000 menstrual educators who will further train millions of young adolescent girls on menstrual health and hygiene every year.

New Delhi: Sunita has been working as a househelp in Khyati Gupta’s house for several years in Delhi. She not only looked after domestic chores, but also took care of other works of the family. She brought her daughter, Deepa, home once in a while, to work.

One fine day, Ms. Sunita took her daughter to Khyati’s home. Both Khyati and Deepa were discussing the kinds of subjects they were taught in their schools when the former noticed a bloodstain on Deepa’s dress. She went on to ask her if she needed to change a sanitary pad or if she was wearing one. To her surprise, the housemaid’s daughter didn’t even know what a sanitary pad was. She wore a cloth piece for the days of her periods, which was not hygienic.

I was in absolute shock to learn that she did not have any knowledge as to what a sanitary pad was. This was something new to me because, for me, it was normal to know about it and have access to it for me and the girls I had for company.

Also Read: Meet Kashmir’s ‘Padwoman’, Who Is Manufacturing Sanitary Napkins And Sensitising Rural Women About Menstrual Hygiene

Following this incident, Khyati approached her father, Arun Gupta, describing how disturbed she was to learn that sanitary napkins was not a product commonly known about or accessible to everyone like her house help’s daughter.

In our house, we have openly discussed such matters. I have had this comfortability with my father from the beginning. In fact, when I reached menarche, it was he who educated me about menstruation by showing me different articles and videos. When this happened, I directly approached him and detailed out how much it disturbed me.

Initially, Mr. Gupta did not give too much weightage to Khyati’s concerns and asked her to provide Deepa with the pads. But Khyati knew it was not a matter that could be solved with a one time giveaway or in a short span of time. She researched at her level and learned that lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene and accessibility to sanitary pads was widespread, and Deepa was just one of them.

I came across shocking statistics, learning that nearly 70-80 per cent girls and women in India didn’t have access to sanitary pads or were not aware of the products. I learnt that many women even use cow dung during their periods. They mould the dung and leave it to dry so that it absorbs the blood.

It took her two-to-three months to convince her father to finally pay attention to the issue, following which, Mr. Gupta offered Khyati a monthly amount to spend on buying sanitary pads for Deepa and several other girls and women like her. “But what about those hundreds and thousands out there, who would still continue to live in the dark?” Khyati questioned her father.

I told him that this is the cause I want to dedicate my life to, Khyati said.

Mr. Gupta said that when his daughter first approached him, he was hesitant to take up the matter on a large scale.

I was afraid that I, as a man, would raise awareness about menstrual health and hygiene and will women be open to join the initiative. But realising that my daughter was serious about addressing the concern on a large scale, I swore to educate adolescent girls, especially from rural and underserved communities, on menstrual hygiene and try to put an end to period poverty.

He decided to start a foundation to end period poverty and raise awareness about menstrual health and hygiene.

As Khyati was too young to know about the nitty-gritty of running the foundation, Mr Gupta approached his female colleagues and friends for partnership, but he didn’t receive a positive response. After multiple tries, his friend, Shalini Gupta, who was already associated with multiple social causes, agreed to co-find the foundation, ‘Pinkishe’, in 2017. Ms. Gupta is the general secretary of the foundation.
The name ‘Pinkishe’ also has a story behind it. The colour of first period blood is normally brownish or pinkish. They added the letter ‘e’ to pinkish, to make it a bit unique.

Also Read: The Kerala Story: How This Indian State Is Leading The Way For Menstrual Hygiene Management

AMITABH BHACHCHAN’S MESSAGE FOUNDATION’S BEHALF

The foundation’s cause has been supported and vocalised by actor Amitabh Bachchan, who has lauded the foundation’s initiatives and encouraged more women to become a part of it.

INITIATIVES BY PINKISHE FOUNDATION

The foundation has more than 50 branches across 25 states in India. There are several initiatives and projects they run across these branches targeting different sectors – corporate, schools, rural societies, urban societies, etc., which include:

Pad Bank: The programme works towards making menstrual education and products accessible to schoolgirls and those from economically weaker backgrounds. The members and volunteers manufacture and distribute sanitary pads for free to the needy while enhancing their awareness levels on the subject of menstrual hygiene. They manufacture environmentally friendly, biodegradable, reusable cloth sanitary pads, and in the process, the women who manufacture them attain economic independence.

Pad Bank came into picture right after what Khyati Gupta had witnessed at her home. The incident was the reason behind the launch of this programme.

We saw that there is a need for pads in the slum areas while keeping in the environment. How marginalised people lack these resources. We send a team of volunteers to a rural area, raise awareness and distribute pads. Visit the area every 2 months, Ms. Shalini Gupta said.

Kagaz Ke Pad: This is a unique programme that aims to generate money from old newspapers collected from households and offices, and further sold to scrap dealers. The money raised is used in the menstrual hygiene programme ‘Padbank’, to distribute free sanitary pads, install pad vending machines, and provide menstrual hygiene awareness to needy girls and women.

Pink Talk: It is a video feature programme. A dynamic panel of female experts from various fields, including women-health, self-defence, wellness, education, legal services, art, craft, etc., create helpful videos on different subjects of women’s interest. The videos are released on their social media channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These Pink Talk experts make themselves available for interaction, answering queries, and group coaching, as required.

Sakhi: It is a zero-cost, sustainable menstrual literacy support programme for schools. Sakhi is built around constructing sustainable literacy support infrastructure at no additional cost, within the schools to ensure every girl has proper, timely knowledge about menstruation and that support is readily available when needed. The foundation partners with schools to create menstrual educators, which include faculty members, who are provided with learning resources and mentoring support to become Certified Menstrual Educators. These CMEs further educate girls above nine years of age about menstrual health and hygiene.

This project is Arun Gupta’s vision.

If we want to remove the issue of menstrual health and hygiene from the root, we need to reach out to the mini society – schools. This was my goal, to reach out to students, so they are educated from the start, he said.

Also Read: Kerala Leads The Way For Menstrual Hygiene, To Install Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines In All Schools

Speaking of the strategy and implementation taken for each programme, Ms. Shalini Gupta said,

We have different heads, all women, for each initiative or a programme, situated in different parts of the country, from Chennai to Chandigarh. So, each project is headed by a different person, and they have several members and volunteers working under them. All of them reside in different places but work together as a team. The heads go to the field and overview the work that is being done by the members and I take the feedback from them.

Any volunteer or member who is inducted in the team undergoes a session, wherein, they learn about menstrual health and hygiene and how to communicate the same to the people they will be reaching out to. Following this, Ms. Shalini along with other heads conduct moc sessions with the newly inducted members and volunteers to get an idea how they will be implementing the project in real time.

We also ask them to record the session for further feedback. Additionally, we maintain a beneficiary list and records as well, Ms Shalini said.

When The team conducts their session, they visit the area after every two months to follow up and this is done by connecting with the head or the representative of the village.

GEETA – A BENEFICIARY AND FOUNDATION MEMBER

Geeta, from Hasanpur village of East Delhi, is one of the beneficiaries of the Pinkishe foundation and is now working with the foundation. Ever since she reached her menarche, Geeta has always used a sanitary napkin, but was unaware as to how many times it needs to be changed and how to dispose of it.

I used to throw sanitary napkins openly in the garbage pit or wherever villagers threw the garbage. But after the menstrual health session that Pinkishe conducted, I made sure to wrap the sanitary napkin in a newspaper and dispose of it in the bin. I also make sure my family members follow the same.

PROJECT PRAVEENA

The Pinkishe foundation also runs a project called ‘Praveena’, wherein they teach stitching and sewing to the rural women, and Deepa is one of them. Not only has she been learning stitching and sewing for the past year, she is now involved in making eco-friendly cloth pads with the foundation.

Talking about the session, Ms Shalini explained,

A team of volunteers conduct a menstrual hygiene and health session with the villagers. The session covers different aspects – the biological function of the body, the significance of having periods, maintaining hygiene in order to avoid infection, the types of menstrual products available in the market, pros and cons of each product, the usage and the disposal of the products, among others.

The foundation uses a casement fabric for the six layer pad that they manufacture. The pad is in the shape of a handkerchief, with a flap at the back which has a snap fastener that is used to tie the pad with the under garment. Each pad can be used for up to two years.

Also Read: Women Sanitation Workers Of Delhi To Be Given Monthly Supply Of Sanitary Napkins 

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN ACCELERATING THE CAUSE

WhatsApp has also played an instrumental role in building the foundation and scaling period-hygiene awareness drives. The platform enables the community to connect with their volunteers and further reach beneficiaries across the length and breadth of the country. Pinkishe has volunteers in every district and city across states in India, and with most of the volunteers not being comfortable with laptops and computers, WhatsApp provides them with an easy digital medium that is second nature to them.

IMPACT

The foundation has reached out to 25 states and union territories. They are yet to touch Ladakh, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

In the last six  years, Pinkishe has distributed over five million packets of sanitary pads free of cost. They have reached out to more than 5 lakh women directly and provided menstrual literacy through on-the-ground education to over 2 lakh girls.

The foundation aims to raise a community of 100,000 menstrual educators who will further train millions of young adolescent girls on menstrual health and hygiene every year.

Also Read: This Bengaluru Man Is On A Mission To Raise Menstrual Health Awareness Among Women And Men

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 – theLGBTQ 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 currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) 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, fightmalnutrition, 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 likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diarrhoea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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