Menstruation for Shalu, daughter of a Taangewala from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh is nothing short of a nightmare. Belonging to a poor family, she hardly has access to even cloth. Lack of proper menstrual health and awareness about hygiene has left her to succumb to illness. Shalu’s case might make you think, if she had enough cloth, would menses still be a monthly disaster for her? This scenario is same for almost 72% women living in the rural areas. Often women take resort to cloth, dung, hay, plastic and even grass. Cloth being the most viable option for women, attention needs to be paid to removing zips, elastics and hooks before using it. Even if they have, they reuse it over and again, only leading to health hazards. The topic of menstruation has always been slid beneath the covers, and nobody ever has encouraged in opening about it.
MY Pads: A more affordable and easier alternative
One of the biggest challenges faced by women from rural areas is the lack of availability of cloth. They often use items which can affect their health adversely and even lead to fatal consequences. It all started about a decade ago when Goonj decided to be a voice to attack this age old taboo about menses. They agreed to provide reusable cloth pads to women in remote corners of India. From channelizing more than 100 tonnes of cloth lying at Tsunami struck areas at Tamil Nadu to distributing 4 million MY Pads to create a difference in the arena of menstrual hygiene, Goonj has come a long way. MY Pads are a means to change practices and get the mass to talk about a ‘taboo’. MY Pads is the cheapest, easy to make, replicate and reusable alternative. The cloth is the standard point of touch for women from the rural areas. Not Just A Piece of Cloth (NJPC) initiative by Goonj is striving hard to ease the hardships faced by village women who still rely on old clothes to a large extent.
Cloth for Work is the basic premise which gave rise to the idea of using a cloth to address the issue menstrual hygiene. Cloth also is a viable option, economical alternative and a relatable point of touch for rural women. It does not lead to the generation of non-biodegradable waste which only surmounts to landfill. NJPC uses a mass-scale replication of existing practices and is easy to use, dispose and help battling indignity to a large extent. There are pan-Indian collection centres where a collection of clean clothes take place. The immediate need was that of clean undergarments which had to be made from the tonnes of cotton cloth that the cities outgrow. Goonj is using NJPC to create an initiative to trigger women to talk about a topic that has remained ‘untouchable’ for many. Goonj organises spaces to share the menstrual challenges, space where women can open up and share their experiences.
When The Logical Indian spoke to Sneha Dey from Goonj, she said, “We have received an overwhelming response from women in rural areas. We need to forge a dialogue. Creating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene is what we focus on.”
NJPC and it’s impact
NJPC is a practical answer to the hardships and indignity women from these areas have to face every month. Menstruation is no longer a ‘woman issue’ solely, but a burning ‘human issue’. A topic where dialogue and conversation need to take place at a larger scale so that a dent can be made in the silence and shame which encircles this topic. MY Pad is attached to the core values of dignity and producing a commodity which can help these women to get of rid of helplessness.
Speaking to The Logical Indian Meenakshi Gupta, founder of Goonj, said, “NJPC is reaching clean cloth to women in the most far flung villages of India, where they either don’t have access or can’t afford the market sanitary pads. These are women coming from the poorest strata of the society, who don’t even have enough cloth to cover themselves.”
Goonj zeroed in on the three A’s of menstruation which can effectively help in tackling this problem:
- Affordability and
Speaking to The Logical Indian ,Durga (name changed) from Jammu on how NJPC has impacted their lives, she said, “Before using MY Pad I used normal cloth. After the meeting with Goonj, I found out about a lot of things around menses. Now I can talk more freely to my friends and daughters about it. Now I know the proper way to wash and dry cloth.”
NJPC aims at opening up the issue so that there can be dialogue around it and taboo can be broken. It’s time that one needs to talk about issues like menstrual hygiene and menstrual health. Opening up about the issue will be the world’s accurate understanding of the various aspects of the problem.
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