In a great move, just after World Menstrual Hygiene Day, a community development nonprofit, The Desai Foundation in collaboration with Shantaben Vidhyabhavan announced the expansion of its “by women, for women” Sanitary Napkins Program in Gujarat, India. The program provides training, employment and access to sanitary napkins, and is all set to expand the second branch, with an aim to reach an additional 250,000 women and girls.
The product manufactured and sold through this initiative is called ‘Asani Sanitary Napkins’. The program launch is in accordance with WASH United, the organisation behind World Menstrual Hygiene Day. The program is also aligned with India’s social campaign Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Gender Equality & Good Health and Well Being.
Based in the Gujarat village of Untdi the women are trained to manufacture the menstrual hygiene products, which are high-quality, low-cost sanitary napkins that are 90% biodegradable. An all-women sales team is hired to distribute the pads throughout their communities, creating a self-perpetuating empowerment cycle in which girls and women can take control over their own health and livelihood. The program also provides vital health education in managing menstrual hygiene. This helps to de-stigmatise menstruation, instill in women and girls the importance of self-care, and increases school attendance for girls.
Such programs will not only increase awareness among girls who are usually remain unaware of periods until the day they wake up bleeding, which often comes as a shock to them. Moreover, it will also help fight and break the long-standing and deeply-rooted taboo around the subject of menstruation in India, especially in rural areas.
The Desai Foundation’s Asani Sanitary Napkins program offers two types of employment: manufacturing and sales. The employment opportunities are created for women from 17 surrounding villages near Shantaben Vidhyabhavan. The manufacturing process employs 13 women per group (64 total women), who operate 7 easy-to-use machines in a safe and comfortable spaces. The sales team focuses on education and distribution of the product to other women in the community.
This program expansion is partially funded through the GlobalGiving Girl Fund grant, which awarded to The Desai Foundation in March, offers financial support for the program until the end of the year. The program is also supported by the annual Lotus Festival in Boston.