Goonj has produced and delivered 2.5 million sanitary pads since 2004 by converting 500,000 meters of discarded cloth into this vital product. In order to break the taboo and the shame and silence around this issue, Goonj launched the Not Just A Piece of Cloth – A Million Voices campaign to bring together voices of people from all over the world on menstruation.
Youth Alliance, a team of budding young people took up the NJPC-A million voices campaign to colleges in Delhi. The project kicked off with a lot of interaction and awareness building activities among the youth. A Theatre group also lent support by holding street plays at different locations highlighting the various aspects of this sensitive issue.
Goonj is trying to reach out to 'some' among the millions of Indian women and girls in urban slums and villages who are forced to use use ash, sand, dirty rags or nothing at all during menses.
Goonj’s 'MY Pad', clean cloth pads (developed out of old cloth collected from urban masses) is one of the eight low cost and eco-friendly ideas which have revolutionized women’s sanitary hygiene in India. Do read- http://www.thebetterindia.com/10917/india-women-menstruation-lowcost-ecofriendly-sanitary-pads/
Awareness sessions are an integral part of Goonj’s work around menstrual hygiene. And that’s where most of the women share their personal journey of shame and silence surrounding the issue of menstruation. During one of these awareness sessions, a lady shared that she had taken My-Pad for her daughter in law who now uses it regularly as she feels comfortable using it. Sukhbati Yadav who was also one of the participants expressed that earlier due to an infection, she was planning to go to the doctor to get operated. But since she started using My-Pad the infection has subsided and so she continues using My-Pad.
India saw a series of floods and other disasters this year and as a part of our on-going relief and rehabilitation work in many flood affected areas, Goonj has reached out My- Pads as a part of the relief material.
Through ‘NJPC- A Million Voices’, Goonj’s global campaign, we are hearing heartwarming stories from different parts of the world. Voices are poignant, shocking and sad but most could be avoided if the taboos, shame and silence on this issue are removed. Through this campaign, Goonj aims to create a forum giving, where women can voice the challenges they face around menstruation. Make your voice heard on- http://njpc.goonj.org/what-can-i-do/
BBC team recently visited Goonj to capture the threads around how a piece of cloth plays a significant role in someone’s life. Here is what the BBC team has to say, after visiting Goonj's NJPC implementation area in Uttarakhand and My-Pad production facilities in Delhi - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29727875 . Do watch a 3 minute video clip also in the article.
A piece of cloth OR a tool to break the silence and shame!!
“Sharm kee baat hai sahab, izzat ka mamla hai..kaun bolega? Saara gaon jaanta hai kee, vo tetanus sey mari thee.. hook key karan..” (It is a matter of shyness/modesty, a matter of dignity; who will speak about it? The entire village knows that she died of tetanus.. because of the hook)
These words still echo.. almost a decade ago we found this ghastly reality of a woman who died of tetanus due to a rusted hook in the piece of blouse, she used during menses !! This was shocking and unreal and it acted like fuel to go deeper into the non-issues of sanitary pads and menstruation..
An extensive search on Google yielded nothing.. no major research and no solution in this part of the world, hardly a decade back. We started traveling to rural India to understand the realities and what we found this still holds true!! Millions of women use sand, ash, dry grass, rugs, rags to plastic sheets in the name of sanitary pads. Over the years we came across a deep rooted culture of shame and silence around this. Somewhere women are forced to sleep in cow sheds while at many places they can’t enter the kitchen. Suppression, isolation, superstition, rituals, lack of a viable solution.. it’s a saga of indignity and trauma around this most taboo issue.
We started turning small pieces of clean cloth into sanitary pads - now called ‘MY Pad’ and started raising our voice on different national and international forums. Instead of just using these pads as a product Goonj uses them as a tool, as an entry point to open up the subject, create awareness and force people to think and open up.. In the last few years, Goonj has been able to create over 2.5 million environment friendly, re-usable, economic cloth sanitary pads - MY Pads. This hascertainly made a small dent in turning this non issue into an issue.
To mainstream this non issue, Goonj has recently launched ‘NJPC- A Million Voices’ a global campaign to bring together a million voices from across the globe. The campaign aims to highlight the culture of shame and silence that countless young girls and women face all over the world, around menses. The main element of the campaign is the questionnaire (http://njpc.goonj.org/lets-get-started/), which aims at getting one million men and women from all walks of life to share their thoughts, opinions and practices around menses. YOU too should fill this form. The site also shares a lot of global disturbing facts, practices, case studies and research on the issue. The objective is to mainstream the issue and to shun the taboo around this natural biological process.
Goonj has been working on this issue for almost a decade now. Through the ‘Million Voices campaign’ we want to start a dialogue among the masses, making it a normal thing to talk about…because we feel shattering the silence is the starting point to deal with the taboos, embarrassment and health risks associated with menses. Some disturbing facts highlighting the need for this campaign;
The million voices collected through this campaign will be a part of Goonj’s sustained efforts to bring about a mindset change in the civic society on this issue. This campaign is an extension of Goonj’s ongoing work across India. Six activities that you can do to be a part of this campaign could be accessed at http://njpc.goonj.org/newsletter-a-piece-of-cloth-or-a-tool-to-break-the-silence-and-shame-do-read-and-act/
Please spread the word in your own network. Get as many people as possible to share their thoughts, experiences and opinions through the Million Voices campaign form. Click http://njpc.goonj.org/lets-get-started/
It’s time you make your voice heard…
GOONJ has been working on the issue of menstrual hygiene for the past decade. Our aim is four fold;
Our strategy; GOONJ’s ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ (NJPC) initiative starts with providing a physical product but stresses more on long term change in practices, behavior, education & replication. Developed with indigenous processes, out of old cloth contributed by the urban masses, the clean pad is provided at a reasonable cost while we also teach the user women to make it one on their own.
Goonj’s holistic approach
Goonj initiates discussion among urban masses on the issue; Urban women and masses have instinctive empathy, understand the universal need, they also have have surplus cloth which they need to discard.
Goonj acts as a facilitator; collects clothes, sorts clothes into wearable and unwearable, value adds by making MY Pads out of un-wearable cloth. Rural grassroots organizations help with spreading awareness and distributing MY Pads. Women learn about menses related health and hygiene issues and get MY Pads and undergarments. Women and their families work on their development issues under Goonj’s Cloth for Work initiative to get wearable cloth, which they can use later as sanitary pads…
Why cloth pads?
Because they are;
- Easily available
- Easily disposable
- Biodegradable, environment friendly
- Easily replicable
- No technological or big financial investment required
About MY Pad; Instead of trying to introduce a new product or a new design, it’s an improvisation and mass scale replication of the existing usage pattern. We are simply removing the risk elements of the existing practices, improving upon and doing a lot of value addition in terms of cleanliness and awareness.
Latest Update; In 2013 when the scenic state of Uttarakhand faced one of the worst floods in India’s history, Goonj was there to provide large scale relief material. In the second phase we are working on various aspects of rehabilitation, one of the focus areas is to reach out to young girls in schools and women living in far flung parts of the state through the NJPC programme.Organising meetings, reaching out My Pads and undergarments and making them a part of the dialogue around menses related taboos, myths and health and hygiene related issues has been a priority… More on our website www.goonj.org
Some recognition on Not Just a Piece of Cloth:
Goonj is opening up one of the most taboo and ignored subject of menstrual hygiene and creating awareness about its health and hygiene aspects among rural women. The shame and silence associated with the issue forces women in the interiors to use all kinds of unhygienic things from sand, rags to ashes. Goonj started opening up this most taboo subject in 2004-05 and came up with a very cost effective, biodegradable sanitary pad made out of waste cotton and semi cotton cloth. A number of national and international agencies have recognized this very basic solution.Today GOONJ's 'MY-PAD" is reaching a lot of villages across the country. Some glimpses of our interaction with women in Uttarakhand where this initiative has found huge acceptability post disaster. You can join GOONJ’s “60 Dignified Days” campaign to reach this basic of life to maximum women in the villages of India.A contribution of Rs 1000 or $24 will reach 12 packs of “My Pad” and 3 undergarments to 4 women for a year with lot of information to open up this subject.
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