When we started working in Bundelkhand, our utmost priority was to reach the tribes of the hilly remote areas, and Bharatpura is one such village in Lalitpur district of the region. During the pandemic, adhering to all health guidelines and needs, we had started our ‘Dignity For Work’ (DFW) initiative in the village where the community cleaned a modest patch of land and leveled it up with soil to make a playground for children. Further, we also extended our ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ (NJPC) initiative to the community where we discussed the crucial menstrual hygiene need.
Initially, during the first 20 minutes of the NJPC meeting, all the women stayed completely quiet, but as soon as they understood the value of positive dialogues, they became comfortable and started opening up about their various issues. From the discussions we came to know that only less than 5% of the local women here use sanitary napkins available in the market. In fact, the village doesn’t even have a shop that sells sanitary pads. More importantly, most of the women are not even aware of sanitary pads and its use. Besides, they are subjected to taboos like ‘stay away from rituals, don’t touch the children, don’t come in front of the elders’ etc. Our team had reached the village with a suitcase full of MyPads (Goonj-made cloth sanitary napkins) with the only target… make them feel and understand that menstruation is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. Following this, the local women with Team Goonj installed a ‘pad-ATM’ in their village, which came in very handy for them. Though the community is suffering from many challenges, and the lockdown had added an extra layer to it, still, with the NJPC dialogue and initiatives they took an important step towards establishing a hygienic environment. “It was very positive to see the women truly happy and eager to know and improve their health issues,” our team member said, beaming.
Storyteller: Sandipan Ghosh, Team Goonj