Menstrual hygiene of women, especially in the marginalized communities of India, is a topic of utmost concern. National Family Health Survey stated during 2016 that only 36 percent of women use sanitary pads in India. Couple this with the shutdown of medical and general stores in India during the COVID-induced lockdown, one can imagine the precarious situation that impoverished women would have landed in as menstrual hygiene products went out of stock and were not readily available in the market. Moreover, the government had not placed sanitary pads in the list of essential items initially. While menstrual hygiene education in schools suffered because of shutdown of academic centers, financial stress on the poor communities relegated menstrual hygiene products further into the list of low priority for families.
This necessitates an initiative to not only facilitate access to menstrual products to women in marginalized communities, but also educating them on the need for best practices to maintain good menstrual health. Women – young and adult alike – need to be informed on how to improve their menstrual health, especially during the dire times of the pandemic.
The initiative is aimed at bringing improved access to menstrual hygiene to women in the marginalized communities of Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai Area through UNICEF’s Dignity Kits. Through Project SAHELI (Sanitation, Health, Education & Livelihood Initiative), we are committed to bringing menstrual hygiene to 200,000 women in the region. We have responded to the menstrual hygiene needs of women in Aarey, Mankhurd, Raigad and Dharavi. The campaign is growing stronger as we reach out to the teenage, youth and adult women in their communities with more kits and comprehensive education on menstrual hygiene.
Project SAHELI aims to address the menstrual hygiene concerns in the marginalized communities of Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai Area by following a two-pronged approach.
First, the hub will generate awareness on menstrual hygiene among the women in the target communities and also among women communities online. This will be done through on-ground education sessions by the Shapers in the communities of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. While we will also host expert sessions online for women and men to get educated on the myths surrounding menstrual hygiene and the best practices for it.
Second, the hub will distribute menstrual hygiene products in a “Dignity Kit” to facilitate access to menstrual health to women. This will enable best practices among women in the impoverished communities and make them an integral part of their life.
Under the campaign #PeriodOfCaring, the hub has collaborated with state government, municipal authorities, sanitary pad suppliers and NGOs to help women manage their period safely and with dignity. As a part of the first #PeriodOfCaring collaboration, the hub partnered with Nua (a women wellness community), YWater (youth advocacy firm) and Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Project Prerna to provide 600,000 sanitary pads to 30,000 women across low-income neighborhoods of Navi Mumbai, Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Mumbai. A pamphlet in Marathi (native language) and Hindi was distributed with each packet detailing usage instructions.
The hub also provided over 40,000 sanitary pads to women in Indira Nagar, Chikkalwadi, Zakir Husen Nagar and Vashi Naka. Moreover, we joined hands with Aara Health as our official health and wellness partner, and distributed over 3,000 pads to 500 women, including sex workers and slum dwellers.
We also partnered with Cheli, a Self-Help Group owned biodegradable sanitary pad manufacturing enterprise. Our fundraiser campaign on Milaap received support of INR 247,272/- from supporters across India. The hub collaborated with Essar Foundation for outreach and distribution over 6,500 sanitary napkins from Saral Design.
The hub also hosted an Instagram Live Discussion series on the theme of menstrual health. Ms. Namrata More, Manager at Nua, interacted over a live session on “How can private players address menstrual health at the grassroots?” Project SAHELI has contributed immensely to the cause of menstrual hygiene in Mumbai, MMR and Navi Mumbai.
Short & Long-Term Goals/Results:
In the long term, we are committed to help 200,000 women from marginalized communities across Maharashtra, through Dignity Kits.
Impact created to date:
- Distributed over 100,000 sanitary pads and 1,500 soaps
- Over 10,000 women sensitized on menstrual hygiene habits
11 women economically empowered through SHG support
- 5 organizations connected as collaborators
- Under Project Prerna, the hub collaborated with Nua, YWater and BMC to provide 600,000 sanitary pads to 30,000 women across low-income neighborhoods of Navi Mumbai
- Distributed over 40,000 sanitary pads to women in Indira Nagar, Chikkalwadi, Zakir Husen Nagar and Vashi Naka
- Distributed over 3,000 pads to 500 women, including sex workers and slum dwellers with Aara Health
- 866 Dignity Kits distributed in Dharavi and Raigad
- 400 Dignity Kits distributed to women in Mankhurd
- 400 kits distributed to women in Aarey
- UNICEF Maharashtra’s Jeevan Rath initiative
- Red is the New Green
- Rise Infinity Foundation
- Cheli – Self-help group in Mumbai
- Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC)
- Maharashtra Peconet