Health
 India
Project #11869

60 Dignified Days for a Woman

by GOONJ
Vetted
NJPC awareness session on menstrual hygiene
NJPC awareness session on menstrual hygiene

In 2016 Goonj started work on menstrual hygiene in Rajasthan, a state well known around the world for its forts and palaces and the ever colorful Jaipur, part of the golden triangle of tourism in India.  Unfortunately there is a different aspect which brought our attention to working in Rajasthan. It was stories of women using sand stuffed in cloth for their menses (with less cloth and abundance of sand given the Thar desert), many women of a village using the same piece of cloth for their menses in absence of enough cloth and stories of rampant uterus removal etc. which proved to be a motivation to take our decade old work with menstrual hygiene and management to the women in the deep interiors of Rajasthan.

The Goonj team started with the villages of Udaipur and Dungarpur district..In this part of Rajasthan, most villages are on small mountains, where the distance between two houses could be between 100 meters to 1 km, mostly covered by foot. Most women work in the fields and the men go out to nearest block/district for work.. When the team started talking to these women, they found that No pad is available in the village market.  These women face a challenge on different levels; not only do they not have access to pads, even affording a clean piece of cloth is tough while awareness around the menstrual hygiene and basic good practices around dealing with menstrual cloth were also found to be minimal.

The Goonj team conducted awareness sessions with the women apart from reaching out NJPC *Dignity Packs to women and school going girls. These packs are also given to each family as part of Goonj’s Family Pack where even one member works for their village development and get these packs with a lot of information on do’s & don’ts of menstrual hygiene.

Discussion with women

In one of the session at Manas village a group of 40 women dressed in their traditional attire spoke on the problems they face during menstruation.

Sovni Bai said, “There is no one at the primary health centre for checkups, mostly we go to Udaipur district. Usually we suffer from stomach pain, irritation, and white discharge but due to shame/embarrassment, we do not talk to anyone about it.” All women present agreed to this.

Nakki Devi said, “Mostly we use clothes for our menses; procured from our old sarees, blouse, petticoat.. We wash and re- use the clothes. When we do not have clothes, we buy a red cloth at Rs. 20 available at the big market of Udaipur district and the cloth is not even fully cotton. We have used this cloth but irritation and scratching remains.”

The discrimination based on religion, caste and gender is quite high here which makes menses more challenging for women. The challenge for the Goonj team was to gather these women, so far from each other at one place..

Discussion with young girls

In one of the sessions at a school, girls shared on menses.

“During my periods my grandmother does not allow me to go inside the kitchen. She treats me differently on those 4 days. She continuously restricts me to touch things, to sit here and there, to go outside, to talk to people. I feel that my having periods I have done something wrong.”- says Suman

Rakhi said, “I was unaware of my periods, I was in school when I stained my skirt and then my friend told me about it. I was scared and told my mom. She gave a pack of sanitary pad but never spoke to me about the issue. I was just restricted from various things. I get angry, fight with my mom and she scolds me back. I stop talking much during those 4 days.”

Goonj has reached out *Dignity Packs to more than 200 women/ girls in Rajasthan till now.

(*Dignity Pack = 10 Goonj’s cloth pads:MY Pads, an undergarment, and a lot of information on do’s and don’ts around menstrual hygiene)

NJPC awareness session on menstrual hygiene
NJPC awareness session on menstrual hygiene
Pictorial communication of Do
Pictorial communication of Do's & Don'ts on menses
Women being educated to make their own cloth pad
Women being educated to make their own cloth pad
Women receiving the Dignity Kits
Women receiving the Dignity Kits

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The women of Koi tribe openly sharing on menses
The women of Koi tribe openly sharing on menses

"Even today at times of emergency while working in the field or when cloth is not available we use leaves from local Sal Trees.” The women of Koi tribe, Sugapada village of Daringbadi block, Odisha recently spoke to Goonj about their challenges around menstruation.

Popularly called the Kashmir of Odisha; the Daringbadi block is surrounded by valleys, mountains and Sal tree forest. These women still don’t have basic facilities. Even the 13 kms road stretch leading to the village is still Kaccha and uneven.

A woman said, “Usually we use clothes for our menses.” On how long does a piece of cloth typically last she added, “On an average every woman has two pieces of clothes to use. We use it for months, sometimes for a year till the cloth tears off.” Dinabandu from our local partner NGO (KZSVS), working closely with these communities for many years, told us, “These women buy clothes once a year. The astonishing fact is that many families still take credit from local Sahukars (money lenders) to buy clothes.. At this affordability rate these women are forced to use a single piece of cloth for a year.”
These women know little before their menarche. They are also completely unaware of the risks of using anything and everything for menses. Their lack of knowledge and awareness about their personal health and hygiene only adds to the problem.

Dinabandhu says about the local health system, “The local ANM comes once a week just for vaccination. Even she doesn’t have knowledge about menstrual health and hygiene. So there is no way of changing their knowledge and practices and hence they follow the primitive methods.” The absence of health facilities nearby; the nearest District health centre in Phulwani, is 130 kms away which can only be reached by a single bus plying on this route.


Another woman said, “No piece of sanitary cloth/pad is available at the local village shops. I buy it from the haat.” This weekly haat is 10 kms away from the village where limited pieces of pad/cloth are available at Rs 50 for 1.5ft by 3ft otherwise they have to travel 40 kms to the nearest block to purchase pads. An adolescent girl said at the meeting, “Sometimes when I can’t find cloth, I skip school during menses.”
Access even to a clean piece of cloth and the inability to afford cloth and /pads are major challenges women constantly face in far flung villages of India. For more than a decade now Goonj has been speaking to women in village India to highlight these aspects apart from reaching clean cloth to them in the shape of MY Pads.Together with our local partner org. KZSVS Goonj reached out MY Pads (Goonj’s Cloth pads) and took awareness sessions in this area.

Leaves from local Sal trees used in absense of pad
Leaves from local Sal trees used in absense of pad
Awareness meeting on menstrual hygiene
Awareness meeting on menstrual hygiene
Common washing & bathing area of women
Common washing & bathing area of women
They use this area to wash their clothes
They use this area to wash their clothes

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Menstrual Hygiene session with women
Menstrual Hygiene session with women

Working across 6 drought affected states of India this year, Goonj is also reaching out to the affected women for their most acute need of clean cloth Goonj My- Pads. Here are some glimpses into their lives and how menstruation turns into a monthly disaster for them..

“When we don’t have anything, what do we do? We do know about the risks but when there isn’t any arrangement, it’s our desperation. What all things do we earn for? We only make Rs 200 ($2.98).. In this, what all can one buy, what all does one pay attention to?

Tribal women of Sudor village (Shahnagar block, Panna district, Uttar Pradesh) speak about a stark reality of menstruation and cloth. In a drought hit region their struggles are more shocking and urgent.

A woman said, “Some of us use one cloth 4 times while others use it 10 times.” Another said, “Menstruation seems like a problem. Who do we talk to about it? Can’t even speak to our husband about it.. Even when we find a dirty cloth, we wash it, dry it and use it for menstruation.”

Earning not more than Rs150-200 ($2.24 - $2.98) a day as daily wage laborers, these women struggle for cloth in a time when even water and food is challenge.. Many live with only 2 synthetic saris for 1-2 years. Old cloth is commonly used and reused for menstruation, for months at end. Some even said they wished to stop their menstruation since it only added to their troubles. 

As daily wage laborers majority of these women work in the fields and for them menstruation is an impediment in such work. In absence of proper sanitation facilities they go for open defecation in nights and take bath in the open near the source of water. Their dignity, safety and livelihood is closely tied to their struggles every month with menstruation.

One woman said, “Half our time is spent in bringing water and then we have to go out to work as well.. We have even worked as daily laborer even when pregnant. During menstruation the pain is so much that when we come home first we have to take a hot fermentation before we cook food.” With only 3 running hand pumps for the entire village Sudor (Panna District, UP), water is a precious commodity. Women go long distances to fetch water on bullock cart or cycles or on their heads. 

Sponsoring Goonj’s MY Pads packs is a practical, doable and effective way to address a woman’s basic need. It not only offers to a woman, awareness about some basic do’s and dont’s but also gives a first-hand experience of a viable and familiar solution in the shape of MY Pads. Do talk about this basic to your family, friends, and colleagues, motivating them to take this small but meaningful step today. .

From creating of cotton sanitary pads to carrying out awareness about menstrual hygiene to trying to break the myths & taboos surround menstruation in remote India, the old material and Goonj has a lot to share and hence started a series - 100 Stories of Change!! Do refer http://goonj.org/page_id=23251/index.html to read the Stories of Change...

Do subscribe to our newsletter do write let us know at mail@goonj.org 

For regular updates, keep an eye on our facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/goonj.org

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This year when Goonj’s NJPC (Not Just a Piece of Cloth) initiative work on menstruation reached the remote villages in districts of West Medinipur and North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, we started work with 700 women who are so poor and backward that they don’t even have the means to purchase cloth for managing their menses. They keep on reusing the most tattered clothes for around 5-6 months. Goonj is addressing the three critical aspects or what we term as Triple AAA of this issue; Accessibility, affordability and awareness on the menstrual hygiene issue for these women.

 Goonj decided to work on a year long intervention with these 700 women. Over the year we reached 2800 packs of MY Pads and 2100 undergarments and opened a dialogue through many awareness sessions where women gave some insightful feedback-:

20 year old Nabomi comes from a tribal family from Baksak village, West Medinipur. She and her husband work very hard to make ends meet given her family’s poor economic condition. Managing her periods every month was thus a constant challenge made worse by the fact that no one in her village even discussed about this basic need. She couldn’t even talk/share about this topic to her parents or her husband.

 After attending Goonj’s NJPC menstrual hygiene awareness meetings she feels happy as she was able to share the harsh realities that during her periods she used a old cloth for 5- 6 month and had no panty to use. This severely affected her mobility during periods. She couldn’t go to the market for selling vegetables, which in turn worsened her family’s economic condition.

Now she is happy, having received Goonj’s MY Pads and Undergarments. “The loops in the undergarment hold the pad so it remains in place. This helps me walk and move round comfortably without any fear of staining my clothes.” She says.  She shares that she now understands that this is a health issue and there is nothing to hide.

 Women and young girls from Village Dhoba Gobindopur, West Medinipur come from a community of daily laborers or farmers, with a majority from OBC/ST community.  These women shared their satisfaction around using MY Pads during their menstruation days. Earlier they used any cloth pieces to manage their menses. They would wash their menstrual cloth at night, trying to do it hidden from everyone. This meant unhygienic practices and infections resulting in loss of work and daily earnings.

 These women expressed happiness in using Goonj’s MY Pads. After the meetings they requested Goonj to provide MY Pads at reasonable prices so that they could buy them easily.

 The outcomes of this intervention are satisfying since MY Pads are working as an entry point into the lives of these women, getting them to open up about their challenges on this issue. Earlier they neither had access to market napkins, nor could they afford market napkins while they had little awareness about related health and hygiene issues. We hope Goonj has addressed all these aspects in a comprehensive manner.

Links:

Accessibility, Affordability & Awareness
Accessibility, Affordability & Awareness

Goonj’s ‘MY Pad’ is a better piece of cloth for women who have very little. It is meant for women, families and communities where cloth is still a scarce commodity. We are using MY Pads to reach these women and talk to them about their menstrual health and hygiene. In this process MY Pad has become a tool to get women to speak, to share and to better understand this basic biological process.

Many women in rural and slum India reuse cloth for menstruation but often don't have a safe and clean way of carrying their used pads (to wash and reuse later). Keeping in mind this practical difficulty, at Goonj we devised an innovative idea. We are adding a little pouch with Goonj cloth pads (MY Pads) made from flex banners and tarps (used ones) going out to rural India. These pouches are leak proof,cheap and a sustainable way of making reuse of cloth possible.

The journey of Not Just a piece of Cloth better known as NJPC is over a decade old now. It has gone through many trials and changes based on the inputs of the women who use it. My Pad is made after removing the hooks, button, elastic and any other hard material from the sorted cotton and semi cotton cloth. Soaked overnight in sanitizers followed by washing and then sun dried in open, first the outer cover of MY Pad is cut in the size of 12x 16 inches. It’s then ironed to make it moisture free. Then the smaller cloth pieces/shreds are wrapped in the outer cover as fillers. The outer cover is then folded, giving it a shape of a pad. Each packet of MY Pads has 15 pieces.

In this financial year alone more than 31,000 packets (@15 pads each packet) have been produced so far along with more than 16,000 undergarments (made out of waste hosiery material). These are not only reaching women in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Bengal, MP and other states but also many slums of Delhi and NCR apart from going as an integral part of relief material. Right now MY Pads are being produced in Delhi only, with a daily production average of around 150 packets (i.e. 2250 pieces).

Cover for Protection
Cover for Protection
Making of Cover
Making of Cover
My-Pad making unit
My-Pad making unit
Process of making My-Pad
Process of making My-Pad

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Organization Information

GOONJ

Location: New Delhi, Delhi - India
Website: http:/​/​www.goonj.org
Project Leader:
Priyanka Tiwari
New Delhi, Delhi India

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