It won’t surprise you to hear that women are among the world’s most vulnerable populations. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that women face more challenges than men, as they are often primary caregivers to their families while trying to survive in a patriarchal system.
In a country like india where millions of women still do not use sanitry napkins. Ash, sand, sawdust, plastic – the things that we regard as ‘waste’ – are the options that millions of women in India take recourse to when it comes to menstrual hygiene .What’s waste for us are vital resources for women across rural, semi-urban and low-income areas during menstruation,may 28 -or menstrual hygiene day -is a good reminder of the regressive attitude that still exists towards a normal female bodily function.
Out of ignorance and poverty, nearly 70% of Indian women use old rags, increasing the risk of reproductive diseases. This is partly because of the shame and stigma associated with menstruation in India. Women are often forbidden from entering kitchens and temples, touching certain food, or watering plants during their periods.
Dilip, a student of business management began organising blood donation camps during his college days.A volunteer from Australia working in the same organisation once asked him the status of menstrual health and hygiene in urban society.Upon researching, he found baffling facts like only 12% of the 450 million women in the country have a basic idea about what menstrual hygiene is.
The duo quit their pre-existing engagements only to seek answers to the dire situation which brings about such baffling statics. They conducted a baseline research and the results of which were frightening. To bring about a culpable solution to the situation, they founded Sukhibhava, a Bengaluru-based organisation striving to bring an end to the age-old cultural taboo around menstruation and creating a mainstream awareness about it.
Sukhibhava was founded on 2013 and started functioning from 2014. “Initially, we decided upon a product based approach, as we felt that availability of alternative options will be a solution to the problem. But after one year of trial and error, we figured, the problem roots much deeper underneath. We realised the answer is not product-based.” The organisation works on four major principles-awareness,stigma,accessibility andaffordability.
All their solutions are based on these parameters.
Sukhibhava works with women in urban slums of Bengaluru and rural areas of Uttarakhand.They are currently reaching out to women in around 100 villages and urban slum communities. They educate women about menstrual hygiene and provide them affordable menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads, menstrual cups and cloth pads through local micro-entrepreneurs. Eradication of stigma and creating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene is done through the help of trainers, who belong to the same community.
The micro-entrepreneurs, on the other hand, help in creating viability for cloth pads and menstrual cups. Sukhibhava supports these micro-entrepreneurs for three months, helping them build their networks and ensuring that they set up sustainable micro businesses.
Challenges have been different from time to time, says Dilip. At present, their challenge is the path to scale the model of intervention further. “Major choc-a-bloc comes while we are trying to create newer chapters. Funding the project and finding partners is one blockage we are looking at. Even today women don’t see menstrual health and hygiene as important.
Thus their take back after an hour-long awareness session is too less. They are all concerned about tangible benefits.” Sukhibhava has partnered with several other organisations which cater to creating possibilities of benefits. For example, they are partnering with Vitamin Angels to distribute vitamin supplements to these women. This also pushes them to attend awareness sessions. Thus looking for partners often becomes a challenging task.