As coronavirus cases continue to increase in India, the country remains under lockdown, taking a toll on the economy and daily life. The pandemic has pushed the girls and women into greater vulnerability, as they require products related to menstruation. To address this issue, Project Baala is providing sanitary pads to women across India. It is also spreading awareness around menstruation and COVID-19.
Project Baala was started by Soumya Dabirwal in 2016 with a focus on solving problems around menstruation through awareness and sustainability. Speaking to WSSCC, Soumya talked about how Project Baala has been functioning post the pandemic.
"After India went under strict lockdown, Project Baala continued distributing sanitary pads to women. They would've been the worst hit as menstrual hygiene is very important to prevent infections," said Soumya.
With the help of its team and volunteers, so far, the organisation has distributed 20,000 reusable pads across India. Notably, reusable pads can be used for up to two years. "The present situation indicates that we'll have to live with COVID-19 and in such a scenario, reusable pads can help solve the problem of accessibility and disposal for women," she said.
Adding on, she revealed that another 20,000 pads will be distributed within the next ten days. According to a report by Water Aid and Menstrual Health Alliance India, at least 121 million women and girls use eight sanitary napkins per menstrual cycle. This means 12 billion pads are disposed of annually in India, affecting our environment.
"Normal pads create an issue of non-biodegradable waste. We are trying to make a difference by producing pads that can be used for up to two years. These pads are eco-friendly and take care of the problem of leakage and disposal," claimed Soumya.
In India, menstrual health is still considered as a taboo and women remain exposed to misinformation and myths associated with menstruation. According to Dasra, only 48 per cent adolescent girls in India are aware of menstruation before their first period. Project Baala has been addressing this issue for the past four years by organising awareness campaigns and workshop across India. It also works in countries like Nepal, Ghana and Tanzania.
Interestingly, the lockdown couldn't deter Soumya's spirit to continue spreading awareness among women and young girls. She digitised their campaign and is reaching out to people with YouTube and WhatsApp videos. This step is helping women receive information about health and hygiene even during this time.
"With the help of our team, we've created awareness videos. The videos are shared via YouTube and WhatsApp and this helps us in reaching out to the women. We want them to adopt good hygiene habits. Not only menstruation, but we are also making them aware of coronavirus and how to avoid getting infected," concluded Soumya.