As we neared the end of 2016, our Sanitary Napkin Program took a promising step toward our ultimate goal of serving three greater regions in Gujarat. We are now manufacturing sanitary napkins out of an additional center in the village of Untdi. This center, Shantaben Vidhyabhavan, is a long-time partner of the Desai Foundation, providing vital educational, health, and vocational services to the people of Untdi and 17 surrounding villages. We are now closer to our goal of successfully operating the Sanitary Napkin Program out of three village community centers located in Kharel-- where the program was piloted— Untdi, and Talangpur. We have also been evaluating five different manufacturing systems to find the most durable, safe, and easy to use machines to equip each of these community centers. This will ensure a happy and productive work environment for the women in our program. Each center serves dozens of surrounding villages, providing an opportunity to empower women far and wide across South Gujarat.
One such woman is Bhanuben, age 48 from the village of Gandeva, just outside of Kharel. Bhanuben has always been industrious, supporting her family through animal husbandry and manual labour. Seeking a more stable and fulfilling source of livelihood, she joined a local sakhi mandal, a woman-run self-help group, and began training under the Sanitary Napkin Program. After working for the program for over a year, she says she has learned and experienced a great deal, met new people, and travelled to surrounding rural communities and even to nearby cities to help mobilize women in the region. Bhanuben is proud to provide for her family to a greater degree; her new earnings have allowed her to construct a latrine in her household. She also takes satisfaction in a job that has provided a vital social circle as well as education on health, hygiene, and self-care.
Expanding the Sanitary Napkin Program will allow us to reach thousands of other women like Bhanuben who have been inspired to re-shape their lives. As our program in Kharel continues to thrive, the Desai Foundation aims to develop the fledgling program in Untdi and implement another program in Talangpur, creating a stronger base to ultimately uplift the lives of 250,000 women and girls.