She might be all of 24. But Mumbai girl Deane De Menezes is going places.
And the last destination she ticked off the map of her dreams was the Buckingham Palace in London!
On June 27, this alumnus of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, was bestowed with the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award for an exceptional project titled ‘Red is the New Green’.
What is this project about?
It is an initiative which aims to shatter social stigma and economic inequality attached to menstruation in India.
Deane is doing this by conducting menstrual hygiene awareness sessions across schools, institutions, colleges, hospitals and organisations in Mumbai. Apart from discussing myths and fears associated with menstruation and creating awareness about safe menstrual hygiene practices, Deane’s team is also reaching out to underprivileged girls and women by making affordable menstrual hygiene products accessible to them.
Apart from creating and broadcasting information on sustainable alternatives and solutions, Deane also started installing sanitary napkin vending machines.
And before you think her job ends there, let us tell you that Deane’s team also ensures that these pads once used, do not choke our landfills. They also make it a point to install incinerators for safe disposal and destruction of menstrual waste, an important step which is often overlooked by most organisations working in the sector.
Presently, she works with an MNC as a Research Analyst.
In an exclusive interview with The Better India, this modern day period warrior talks about her inspiration, her journey and the road ahead after becoming the Queen’s Young Leader.
Recalling the incident that triggered her to start the ‘Red is the New Green’ movement, Deane says,
“The inspiration to kick-start ‘Red is the New Green’ came from an experience, when I found myself without a sanitary napkin. The incident got me thinking that while it was easy for people like us to go to the medical store and buy a sanitary pad at the snap of a hand, many girls and women can neither access, nor afford these products. That was the beginning of my journey.”
In December 2017, Deane was told that she had won the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.
What is the significance of this Award?
The Queen’s Young Leaders Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people between the ages of 18-29 from across the 53 Commonwealth countries, who are using their skills to transform lives in their communities.
The winners get a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from The Queen and also get the opportunity to receive a unique year-long leadership training programme at the University of Cambridge where they are mentored and taught to expand their networking skills.
“My initial reaction was a shock because I did not expect to be selected for such a huge award. I had applied for the award, without thinking much about it. One reason was that the programme also offered a one-year leadership training course at the University of Cambridge, which I needed to enhance my project as a leader and help it reach out to more people. I had nothing to lose. But when I was told that I won, I was overwhelmed. I am humbled. I truly feel honoured and grateful for this award,” says Deane.
Deane calls her experience with the Queen unbelievable.
“Even at 92, she was gracious to interact with us. The excitement she showed when we spoke about menstrual hygiene was unexpected. She felt it was a very important cause and said she was glad that I was working for it. She told us, she hoped many more youths would pick up the cause,” Deane adds.
The young warrior speaks about her experience in meeting youth leaders across the Commonwealth under one roof. “It was great learning for me. When we interacted, each of us realised the common threads that bind us. We learnt that many of the problems our countries faced, were similar. I was surprised to learn that stigma attached to menstruation is not just in India but also across the world, in different cultures as well. Our calling, in this case, was to join hands and work together, ideate solutions to some of these jarring problems our countries face. And I realised, only then can we make this world a better place.”
In her final message to the youth across India, Deane says, “If I can do it, so can you. Even if you start small, it is okay. I have always found support in people from all walks of life. If there is something you are truly passionate about, something you think is your chance to give back to the society, go for it. Don’t hesitate. You’ll never know what places you’ll reach.”
We hope that Deane’s story inspires many youths to explore their potential. The young leader is striving to make the world a more period-friendly place. We wish her the very best!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)