There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
Menstruation is a subject that has culturally been considered a taboo and is entrenched with misconceptions and disregard, with little cognizance of the hazards of inadequate menstrual protection. The Project will highlight how the subject of feminine hygiene is grossly neglected at all levels.
Poor financial condition does not allow majority of the women to buy quality sanitary napkins, adding of cloth users, 45 per cent reuse cloth and 70 per cent dry them in the shade, increasing chances of infections.
Promotion of health and sanitation and the use of sanitary napkins in rural areas is essential, with particular awareness for young school going girls. At the moment this is not being done as the cost of sanitary pads is high and the rural poor. WOTR works with women’s SHGs in all these project villages, however health and menstrual care is not currently attended to.
WOTR will be responsible for this project, its promotion and motivation for its use as well as for the base line and feedback data collection. The outreach is to 1500 girls and women located in 5 villages in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Support for its initial orientation, health education and promotion of Saafkins and the data collection (baseline and feedback studies, at 6 months and end of 1st year) will be done in all project villages.
In rural India, there is little knowledge and the understanding of the menstrual cycle and its hygiene, because of which no attention is given to this area by the people. Over 88% of women in India do not use sanitary napkins as they are too expensive for rural households to afford. Therefore, women resort to age-old alternatives like cloth, ashes, husk and sand during menstruation. These substitutes are not only extremely uncomfortable but also the cause of various diseases and infections, some of which have lifelong effects. Education of girls is hampered during her menstrual days.
About 68 per cent rural women cannot afford sanitary napkins available in the market. The study, carried out by AC Nielsen, and reviewed and endorsed by NGO Plan India, throws light on the dismal state of feminine hygiene care in India. The study found that awareness on basic health and feminine hygiene is very low, with 75 per cent rural women lacking adequate knowledge on menstrual hygiene and care.
Regarding affordability of quality sanitary care, the survey found that 88 per cent rural women use unsterilized cloths since they are cheaper and 68 per cent said they cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins.
We propose to introduce sanitary napkins that are reusable (Saafkins) which reduces wastes. This unit will provide napkins that are of good quality as their branded competitors and cost much less. This makes sanitary napkins both accessible and affordable to women and girls in this region.
In villages the promoter will run campaigns to create awareness among adolescent girls and women about the importance of hygienic sanitation practices. We will encourage them to the use of health and hygienic practices. We will also promote basic hygienic practices like washing hands after using the toilet.