The pandemic has brought numerous hands to join together and support the underprivileged with everyday essentials. However, one fine day I had to leave behind my usual lockdown chores and get on my feet due to a wanting phone call. The call was from none other than my house-help who couldn't decide whether she should spend her limited survival funds for food or prevention of unwanted infections by buying sanitary pads.
This call made me realize the difficulty in choices that the needy people have been making during this pandemic. I knew that women in rural areas didn't even have access to menstrual hygiene but being locked in my city, I decided to use my limited resources and visit nearby localities with slums to see whether the problem persisted around me too. To my surprise, I found out that urban slums too didn't have enough education and resources for women's hygiene and this is where I decided to eliminate this issue with my limited human powers.
My research in the following days resulted in the knowledge that a large number of women disregard menstrual cleanliness and use unsterilized cloth strips as protective measures. Eventually, I decided to raise a couple of thousand rupees for the neighboring slums in my city, to a bigger surprise and immense joy I found out that 85% of my donors were male members who helped me raise about ₹ 45,000 (USD 600) in just 5 days. The fact that male members completely disregard female hygiene was immediately proven wrong. The next big challenge was the utilization of the funds and distributing the pads which I had to plan and execute with just one other friend.
I started distributing 6000 packs of sanitary napkins which reached around 4000 women in 15-20 slums around Kolkata area. During the donation drive, I experience a lot of ups and downs, the positives were the response that I received from each and every woman. Not only, were they astonished to see that someone even cared to distribute sanitary pads during the pandemic, but also relieved that they had one less problem to care about during these tough times.
The negative experiences, which later turned out to be lessons included women feeling extremely shy to receive sanitary packs publicly and also many who blatantly refused to use them. I was harassed by male members of some women who asked me to leave the area who clearly shed light on the taboo that still persists about menstrual hygiene even in metropolitan cities of India.
I feel that everybody needs to comprehend that and sterile napkins are a need and not luxury. Some research indicated that only 18% of women have access to menstrual hygiene, which is something we all need to ponder about. That one phone call has completely driven me to make a difference. My goal is to educate people and prioritize the use of sanitary napkins. It's too late for talking the talk but time to walk the walk.
In this era of social media enlightening millions of users, I feel it is not difficult for anyone to spread awareness about this topic, it's a stereotype we need to overcome right now! Many women are dying because of the lack of education, interest, or amenities regarding menstrual health. I would like to become a champion of taking this mission forward and make women talk about their menstrual problems openly. Menstruation is a natural process and we should not shy away about it.
In a country where talking about periods is a taboo, let's bring the change that's long overdue.
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