Chhitra Subramaniam wanted to do something for the service of others since she was a child. Although she works in the media industry, she has always been driven to work towards community services.
She got a chance to put her life-long dream into a project during the lockdown. She took up the cause of maintaining the hygiene of female cops who are serving on the frontline and started working on it. She started with 'Mission Suraksha' through which she used 16 Vanity Vans for the Mumbai Police force along with the support of Producers Guild of India, Ketan Rawal and Project Mumbai.
The Vanity Van project was a simple idea through which the women cops and other frontline workers could be facilitated during the pandemic. The lack of washrooms for the women cops who are always on the frontline service is a major issue. For dealing with this problem. Chhitra came up with the idea of Vanity Vans which could be used by them.
To counter the lack of hygienic facilities, she put up 16 vanity vans across Mumbai, equipped with sanitizers, masks, and biscuits. As a result of this project, Chhitra soon became known among the people involved in community services.
Along with this, Chhitra also co-founded Pad Squad with other members, an initiative which aims to provide menstrual hygiene to those in need through collection and distribution of menstrual pads. Through this initiative, she distributed more than half a million lac sanitary pads across India and established more than 50 Pad Squadders across the country and abroad.
As a result of the community service work which she has done, she was invited to be a part of the Joy of Giving Week or Daan Utsav. For the Daan Utsav, they decided to launch a campaign named 'Pad Peti for Every Beti'. The main idea was to change the consciousness of people towards menstrual hygiene instead of just focusing on donations.
As a part of the activities related to Daan Utsav, just two months before it, Arunima, from Mumbai had put an empty box in her building to collect pads. She received more than 5,000 pads through donations. Looking at her example, Revati and Priyamwada hailing from Bengaluru conducted the same activity in 12 buildings and it brought success to both of them.
"Not everyone wants to give money," explains Chhitra when asked about the success of the campaign. According to her, buying a pad for 20 to 30 rupees and donating is more appealing to people. This is another reason behind the campaign's success.
Based on the success of this activity, Chhitra and the other co-founders of Pad Squad, decided to launch it as a national campaign during Joy of Giving Week which was held from September 18 to October 8, 2020. Chhitra adds that the idea is easy, simple and sustainable and anyone who wants to be a part of the campaign can simply participate in it.
The box is placed in the building lobby, anyone can just drop pad packets. With this initiative, others could also be made conscious about this cause and it could be highlighted that all of them deserve good menstrual hygiene. At the end of the campaign, more than 1.5 lakh sanitary pads were collected and are being distributed in and around Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Jabalpur, Hubli, Indore, Sundarbans, Kolkata, Palghar and Kalimpong.
With such astounding success, they aim to go further with their efforts in facilitating menstrual hygiene through sustainable solutions such as menstrual cups, cloth reusable pads and breaking taboos She also firmly believes that if the woman of a house is kept strong or healthy, then the entire family will stay healthy.
"If each family stays strong then the community at large stays strong," says Chhitra while talking about her mission.
Apart from this project, Chhitra is deeply involved in Shramik Sammaan, a Livelihood Project started by Bilal Khan (Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan), Anil Hebbar (CEO of Helping Hand Charitable Trust) and human rights lawyer, Lara Jessani. Under this, 74 livelihood projects will be initiated to bring income and dignity to the migrants that lost their livelihoods during the pandemic.
"It makes me feel fulfilled and satisfied as well," concludes Chhitra while speaking about her work.
She also continues to be a supporter of the Community Kitchens efforts which were started and are being run by Bilal Khan and Lara Jessani, as well as collection and distribution drives since the start of the pandemic. She is currently Senior Vice President at Kross Pictures (a South Korean production company). While her profession is media, her passion will always be community service.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.