Arun Gupta started Pinkishe Foundation in 2017, a Delhi-based NGO working to fill the gap of access to menstrual hygiene.
This article has been sponsored by Facebook
When Khyati–then a 16-year-old–reached out to help the daughter of her house help, who had a blood stain on her dress, she realised that the girl had never used a sanitary napkin before because they couldn’t afford them. Instead, they would use discarded pieces of unhygienic cloth every month during the cycle.
Upset over their poor menstrual literacy, Khyati turned to her father, Arun Gupta, for help.
“I remember how upset Khyati was to know the struggle that girl had to go through during her periods. It was a huge learning moment for both of us and Khyati decided to use all of her pocket money to buy the girl sanitary napkins. She even started a campaign to inspire others to help at least one girl by donating sanitary napkins. But, we knew that the problem was deeper than this and that it required more work. And we were up for it,” says Arun.
The experience made both of them realise the dismal state of menstrual hygiene disparity in India and they realised their work had to be bigger and more in-depth to even scratch the surface. This eventually led Arun to start Pinkishe Foundation in 2017, a Delhi-based NGO working to fill the gap of access to menstrual hygiene. While Arun took the helm of Pinkishe, Khyati continued as the head of the youth wing inspiring youngsters to join and contribute to the Pinkishe Movement.
“The lack of awareness about menstrual health and its repercussions on women’s health is the longest running pandemic we have ever faced, and a community-led approach is the way to go about it,” he adds.
What started with just two people has grown into an all-women community with 2 lakh members across 50 branches in India. This community together has transformed the lives of more than 2 million women so far. This, Arun says, has been made possible because of the community that he built on Facebook.
“Our goal is to end period poverty in India and Facebook has been fundamental in this journey. The reach that we have today, which is to millions of people, has been possible only because Facebook as a platform has the power to impact and connect every part of the world,” adds Arun.
Owing to their exemplary work in the sector, Pinkishe was selected as one of the 13 brilliant communities from India to participate in the Facebook Community Accelerator Program 2021. Out of a pool of 13,000 communities, Pinkishe was handpicked for its impact-driven work which includes several social projects like the #PadBank project. As part of this program, Pinkishe will receive training, support and funding (up to USD 50,000) from Facebook to advance their community’s growth.
Arun also adds how Facebook helped Pinkishe become global. “Not just in India but we have volunteers from across the globe. We are working with people from WASH United, Berkeley, Canada and so many more places. And that has been possible only because of a platform like Facebook,” he says.
But the use of Facebook communities to create grassroots impact has resonated in the farthest corners of the country.
Sharing one such incident, he says, “I remember a group of women from a remote village in Assam, during the lockdown, who could not get access to sanitary essentials and had reached out to a local police officer for help. He then found us on Facebook and tagged us to seek help. The very next day we managed to get these pads home delivered to Assam.”
Awareness programmes, distribution of sanitary kits to holding offline workshops in schools, the organisation is working to tackle the problem at its root. For this, their Sakhi program involves training teachers and creating a student-led Sakhi team to educate about menstrual health and create an inclusive ecosystem.
So far, they have distributed over 2 million sanitary napkins across more than 17 states in India.
“Although I am the one of the few men in this women-led organisation, we have come to realise that it is extremely important to involve boys and men into the awareness fold. Educating boys about menstrual health and making them champions of the cause is very important to truly bring about a change, and so we have also begun to hold sessions with boys in 1,200 schools across India” concludes Arun.
His work is creating an example for lakhs across the country to use the resources available to them and take action. You can support Arun and find more about this initiative on Pinkishe Foundation’s Facebook page here.