Health
 India
Project #11869

60 Dignified Days for a Woman

by GOONJ
Vetted
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...

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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.

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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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Interacting with women...
Interacting with women...


Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh is really the heart of central India. It is a largely tribal area, home to the Korku tribal community. Goonj has been working here for many years now, together with its local partner organization Spandan. Goonj has been working closely with Spandan on the issue of menstrual hygiene and management through its Not Just a Piece of cloth (NJPC) initiative. The tribal women of Khandwa had no access to knowledge on menstrual hygiene management and have been devoid of basic amenities like a sanitary cloth or a toilet apart from facing huge taboos because of the shame and silence around the issue. On a recent visit to Khandwa a two member Goonj team met more than 50 village women during a NJPC awareness session where the women shared their stories and experiences.

In Langoti village, Shyamwati has been using Goonj MY Pads (cloth sanitary pads) for the past four years. She said, “Earlier I used the tericot cloth (synthetic cloth for cloth pad) at home. I used to wash it dry and reuse it again. When I saw women attending the Goonj awareness sessions and taking cloth pad from Goonj. I too came along. I found that it has many advantages. I became more aware on the issue of menstruation. I also worked under Cloth for Work (another Goonj initiative where people work on their own issues and get material as reward) where we undertook land bunding and also worked on digging the well in Langoti village. I got ration and clothing and I am using that material.”

Women of the Korku tribe undergo a lot of suffering during menstruation facing huge challenges around washing, drying, changing and disposing. A lady shared, “I used cloth during menstruation. When I got married, I felt shy from my in laws and so I would store the cloth at a hidden place in the roof ceiling behind a wooden plank.” Here the houses are temporary sheds which are not completely water resistant. Still the women don’t have a choice. They continue to store their menstrual cloth thus, even when it’s raining. “I had no option. Many a times I couldn’t even dry up my cloth and even used a moist cloth pad. When I came to know about MY Pad it was a big relief.” She also mentioned that reusing a moist cloth pad made her feel uncomfortable and stinky.

 The young girls our team met, expressed that earlier there was a lot of hesitation but now they had become bit comfortable on the issue and were now more aware about the disposal and hygiene aspects of using a cloth.

Ramwaati, another village resident said that earlier she washed the cloth pad in the nearby pond and dried it under a saree. This was cautiously done when there were no men around. She also shared that every time she tore a piece of  tericot cloth and used it as a pad she was scolded by her family members. She further added, “MY Pad helped me a lot, now I reuse it and dry it separately and do not put it under a cloth for drying.”

In many remote communities of India the awareness sessions done by Goonj are making women more confident in taking steps to improve their menstrual hygiene practices. The big change is that they have started talking about the subject.

Collecting Voices..
Collecting Voices..
Women listening attentively..
Women listening attentively..
Involving the men in the community...
Involving the men in the community...
Involving the whole community..
Involving the whole community..
Chuppi Todo Baithak..
Chuppi Todo Baithak..

Links:

Making of My_Pad
Making of My_Pad

So we started with the simple - addressing a woman’s need for adequate clean cloth.. 

The bigger challenge with menstruation was an all pervasive culture of shame and silence around it, marred by social, cultural and religious myths, taboos and practices. Goonj’s MY Pads, could act as a trigger to get these women to talk about this closed up issue. 

In April 2014 Goonj launched NJPC – A Million Voices campaign (www.njpc.goonj.org) asking people in the cities and villages across the world to share their thoughts, opinions and challenges around menses. We hope that when a million people talk about this issue, it will multiply into a culture of normalcy around menses.. That opening up of the issue will be the beginning of the world’s accurate understanding of the various aspects of the issue. 


Read more -  http://goonj.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/11.pdf

Washing of cotton cloth
Washing of cotton cloth
Sun-Dry of cloth
Sun-Dry of cloth
Cloth to My-Pad
Cloth to My-Pad
Menstrual Management Awareness
Menstrual Management Awareness
Learning to make cloth into My-Pad
Learning to make cloth into My-Pad

Links:

 

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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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