For years, menstrual health has been treated as a taboo subject, never discussed openly and always kept under wraps. As a result, the lack of awareness is quite alarming. According to a report, 71% of girls in India, have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period. Many also drop out of school on reaching puberty.
Well, over time, certain initiatives have helped push the envelope for menstrual awareness. Some of these are carried out by individuals, like this initiative, that helped women living in Patiala slums. Other initiatives are taken up by public bodies, like the School and Education department in Tamil Nadu, which has set up over 4,000 sanitary pad incinerators in government schools.
In Pune, two college students have taken it upon themselves to spread menstrual hygiene awareness among women in their locality. Manal Bole and Lakshit Bhayana are two 22-year old students at the Symbiosis College of Liberal Arts. They have started an initiative to provide sanitary napkins to as many women in their locality as possible.
The impetus to do this stems from the understanding that women from disadvantaged sections of society have little idea of proper menstrual hygiene. Manal was shocked when her domestic help told her that all the women in her family used the same cloth during their menstrual cycles, she said to the Pune Mirror.
Manal decided that the women in her immediate vicinity would get sanitary napkins. That is what prompted her to start crowdfunding a campaign, which resulted in around 400 women in their Pune locality being provided with napkins.
She and her partner, Lakshit Bhayana, are now looking at providing these women with eco-friendly pads which do not harm the environment.
Lakshit echoes Manal’s sentiments and adds that while it is important to promote menstrual hygiene among women, it is also important to pay heed to the environment. Which is why biodegradable sanitary napkins were the ideal solution for this initiative.
The two youngsters in Pune are trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, and are in touch with organisations like Goonj and Aakar Innovation, concerning biodegradable sanitary napkins. The students are also teaching safe disposal methods and other useful menstrual hygiene tips.
According to Manal, affordability is a vital factor, and many of these women find it difficult to budget for sanitary napkins. Hence, an initiative to provide low-cost, biodegradable sanitary napkins to these women should have a two-fold effect. On the one hand, it should eradicate the stigma surrounding menstrual health, and on the other hand, it should give these women access to biodegradable products that they can dispose of without inhibitions.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)