Millions of women use sand, wood ash, old rags, newspapers & even plastic bags due to non-availability of sanitary pads in India. Shame & silence associated with the issue makes it the most taboo subject even among women. The irony is that even the biggest health/RCH projects don’t have a budget for sanitary pads. This is a nationwide intervention, which starts with providing a physical product but stresses more on changing practices, behavior change, education & replication in the long term. The clean cloth pad (called My Pads) is developed out of old cloth collected from urban masses. Its made with highly indigenous processes while we also teach the user women to make it on their own. This sensitive subject is addressed while emphasizing on behavior change & knowledge exchange through meetings, exhibitions etc. on related health & hygiene issues.
We call our strategy as ‘TRIPPLE A’ - awareness, accessibility and affordability. Until a women has all three of these, making a long term impact on her behavior around menstrual hygiene is difficult. Thus GOONJ’s NJPC is not just about reaching a clean cloth sanitary pad but more a holistic solution which is taking care of all aspects of the problem.
In the cities for the first time we are initiating discussion on this issue by directly involving the urban women, drawing on their instinctive empathy. We use old cotton cloth lying useless in the cities as a resource to address this important yet taboo basic need of the village & slum women. In village India we use this pad as a tool to connect with women, to get them to talk about their challenges and health issues, to discuss with them and generate more awareness on the related health and hygiene issues. The use of cloth; a material most village women are comfortable and familiar with, coupled with the reuse possibilities makes it a viable option. This is a highly replicable, cheap and easy to do initiative which brings an environment friendly product.
Not Just A Piece Of Cloth
Women are the most marginalized in the 72% of India’s population living in rural areas. Given the poor economic status of a vast mass, a sanitary napkin for the essential biological process of menses is the last thing on the mind of most. They end up using all kinds of rags leading to widespread unhealthy practices during menses. This forms a strong connect with the prevalence of RTI and other pelvic diseases in India. The shame & silence associated with the issue makes it the most taboo subject even among women, as a vast majority face great hardships & indignity, besides health risks due to this problem.
Goonj is using old cloth lying useless in the cities as a resource to address this important yet taboo basic need of the village & slum women and in doing so focusing on a critical gap in women’s health. The clean cloth napkins are an entry point to generate more awareness on the related health and hygiene issues. In the cities for the first time we are initiating discussion on this issue by directly involving the urban women, drawing on their instinctive empathy. The use of cloth; a material most village women are comfortable and familiar with, coupled with the reuse possibilities makes it a viable option.
Recent media coverage
1. Asian Tribune wrote “Movie with four friends or dignity for four women in ‘those days’ www.asiantribune.com/node/61865 All it takes is US $ 24 or Indian Rupees 1,000 to bring dignity to how a women deals with this monthly basic need. The choice is yours…
2. A Podcast with Anshu Gupta, Ashoka Fellow and Schwab Fellow, the man behind Goonj’s pioneering work on the ignored and taboo basic need of a woman in rural India. Highlights the thought process and philosophy of Goonj – ‘Creating Paradigms: Where Trash is Currency’ - www.khemkafoundation.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=242&Itemid=259
3. Session at NASA: Using urban waste streams as a powerful development resource in rural India, Goonj is dedicated to saving lives, empowering people, and ensuring dignity for the underserved poor in rural India. Through its activities, Goonj helps to create a parallel economy that is not ‘cash based’, but ‘trash based’ - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daZP09zGHLA&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1
4. David Bornstein of The New York Times wrote about the journey of Goonj to create shelter for people in rural areas using the so called urban discard. “Bridging the Clothing Divide” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/clothing-the-poorest-for-survival/
GOONJ's 'MY-Pad' is a widely accepted product, having immense impact on the rural communities in various remote parts of the country. It is being used as a tool to open up the taboo subject and get women/girls to talk about it.
Its manifold utilities like reuse, bio-degradable, economically viable to buy and most importantly, keeping women's traditional values intact as this is made from a hygienic cloth wastage thus, making 'MY-PAD' a choice of many women plus and our implementation partners too. Despite many interventions around health, this small needle has been ignored grossly. Our idea is to make women/girls aware of the health and hygiene related important aspects around this issue which also has a direct impact on their personal economic challenges. With minimal livelihood options, there's a very little scope left for women to pay attention on their own health. Through village level active interactions, awareness exhibitions we are bringing them closer to this issue. The recipients of 'My-Pads' now enjoying the freedom, confidence and are also motivated to take the ownership at local level to spread it among their peer groups. These women ambassadors in the remote villages, in schools are becoming vocal, making more and more rural populace aware of this issue and finally are able to penetrate the message deep inside the traditional homes, thus breaking this cultural taboo.
Recently Christian Science Monitor wrote a comprehensive write- up on the how cloth is becoming a big resource and a stong tool for development and dignity. Refer to read the article- http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/2013/0222/Anshu-Gupta-brings-clothing-for-dignity-to-India
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