With an aim to spread awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene, our team decided to visit Pandua village in Puri district of Odisha. During the visit we found out that most of the women there barely had any information around menstrual issues. They use cloth but maintenance of hygiene is usually overlooked. Also, our team observed that there were no bathrooms in the village and women had to bathe and change in the open.
Our team initiated conversations with the community regarding these issues and suggested ideas to deal with them. Following this, the locals, under Goonj’s ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ (NJPC) initiative, decided to build a proper changing room, specifically for the women. With no prior knowledge of how to build a bathroom-like structure, the room that the women had built earlier was revamped to provide them safety as well as comfort and was rebuilt using bamboo and soil.
35-year-old Ranjeeta Maharana, a local resident, said, “Because many people bathe in the pond, the women were always uncomfortable while changing and longed for a little privacy. Goonj’s idea of making a changing room will benefit all of us tremendously. I don’t want anything else from Goonj. This is more than enough. I believe that their thought process and our ability to work hard will create a new kind of unity and partnership. We are using the room as a SHG meeting place as well. This way the changing room has given us double benefit.”
Innumerable women still resort to unhygienic ways of menstrual protection. To make it worse, there is inadequate access to toilet facilities and clean water. Menstruation is such a taboo that women are even ashamed to seek medical advice or freely discuss it with their own daughters. This further impacts their health and well-being. Thus, making the women here aware of the issue was just a little step, but a major leap towards better menstrual hygiene.