Akshay Kumar-starrer Pad Man shows on-ground effects: India stands against the taboo

The R Balki directorial has inspired and brought to light several path-breaking initiatives for menstrual hygiene in India.

bollywood Updated: Feb 16, 2018 18:21 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Pad Man,Akshay Kumar,Sanitary Napkins
Actor Akshay Kumar in a still from Pad Man that released on February 9, 2018.

While Akshay Kumar-starrer Pad Man continues ringing in success at the box office, there are several on-ground stories of people’s efforts to improve menstrual hygiene in the country, which are worth applauding. Directed by R Balki, the film is based on the life of Tamil Nadu-based entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a machine to manufacture low-cost sanitary pads for rural women. Here are some noteworthy initiatives, some of which existed long before the film.

Better menstrual hygiene at hospitals: Patients can breathe a sigh of relief as five maternity hospitals in Mumbai including Malad Mother and Child hospital, Oshiwara, Bhandup and Marol maternity hospitals and the Anandibai Joshi hospital, will soon get first-of-its-kind sanitary pad vending machines, with each pad costing ₹5. A tribal girl in Bahamoni of Jangalmahal, in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, is taking on the social taboos regarding menstruation. She has already met with the district magistrate to ask for a sanitary napkin vending machine to be installed at Rajnagar Block Hospital.

Railways to take care of women passenger’s woes: Several railway divisions have decided to instal sanitary pad vending machine at stations. The Western Railway Women’s Welfare Organisation has put up such machines for its female staff at all its major offices on the network. While Bhopal is the first station in the country to have installed a vending machine, called Happy Nari, that dispenses two pads at a cost of ₹5, Indian Railways plan to have them at all stations. The Rajkot railway division has also set up an automatic coin-operated vending machine for travellers, which can hold 100 napkins and provides one pad at ₹5.

Cinemas address women’s needs: Chennai’s iconic Sathyam Cinemas have decided to dispense free sanitary napkins across its properties, with a plan to expand this initiative to properties located in other cities. In another instance, Anuradha Cineplex, in Guwahati, had tied up with NGO NEEDS, to promote menstrual hygiene. They hosted free screening of the film Pad Man and also distributed free sanitary pads to create mass awareness.

Airports get pad vending machines: Patna airport will soon have coin-operated sanitary napkin vending machines in the women’s washrooms inside the airport’s terminal building. Also, HGS Dhaliwal, IPS officer, tweeted about Airports Authority of India launching the first dispensing machine for sanitary napkins at Tirupathi airport.

Improved hygiene for school girls: Several measures are being taken to improve menstrual hygiene of school-going girls. Pune’s rural department will ensure that all Zilla Parishad school girls are provided a year-round supply of sanitary napkins for ₹5 through local self-help groups. As part of its ‘Pad habits’ campaign, Inner Wheel Club of Jamshedpur inaugurated its fourth pad vending machine at Utkramit Madhya Vidyalaya, Bhatia Basti, Sonari. As part of its council budget, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has also proposed to instal free sanitary napkin vending machines in all secondary and senior secondary Navyug or NDMC schools. Meanwhile, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) has installed a vending machine and incinerator to dispense and dispose of sanitary napkins at Valluri Sarojini Devi Municipal Corporation High School. GST office in Rajkot also gifted a pad vending machine and an incinerator to students of Smt Sarojini Naidu Girls High School.The discontinued Kishori Yojna scheme, which used to provide free pads to girls in Class 6 to 12, is also set to resume. The Maharashtra government also plans to make a pack of eight sanitary pads available to seven lakh girls, aged 11 to 19, studying in government schools, for a subsidised price of ₹5.

Women take charge: Even women are forming self-help groups to do their bit to improve their hygiene conditions. Women inmates at West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri Central Jail are getting ready to make sanitary napkins, which will be supplied free of cost to vending machines in schools, colleges, and shelter homes. Three years ago, a group of a Goan village also started a small-time venture of producing bio-degradable sanitary pads out of pine wood paper, after being inspired by Muruganantham. In a small village in Madhya Pradesh, 10 tribal women have formed a group to fight old-age stigma by manufacturing and selling 600-700 pads in a month, despite the strong opposition from residents. In 2012, a college student, Devki Mittal, urged the welfare officer to instal a sanitary vending machine inside the college premises but it took a lot of time for her plea to be heard. Finally, authorities were directed to initiate installation of pad vending machines across all educational institutions, after which, these machines were put up in many colleges of the country. B Gopamma from a village in Odisha has started an initiative to enable local adolescent girls and young women manufacture sanitary pads. Along with a self-help group federation, she also conducted a study of the existing menstrual practices and usage of sanitary napkin products. In another inspiring instance, two class 11 students from Jaipur — Purvi Mittal and Suhani Mittal, have started a ‘Pad Bank’ to help women who can’t afford to buy sanitary pads. They have set up 10 such collection points, and each time one buys a packet of sanitary napkins, they deposit in the pad bank too.

Abdul Kadir Khan and Aleem Khan from Udaipur have designed a low-cost sanitary napkin making machine.

NGOs and individuals do their bit: After three years of research, Udaipur-based brothers — Abdul Kadir Khan, 25, and Aleem Khan, 22 — have designed a low-cost sanitary pad making machine that can produce 1,200 pads a day, each costing to 90 paise, the lowest rate in the country. In a village in Karnataka, there are plans to revive Self Help Group (SHG) Isiri, run by Laila Gram Panchayat, which produced low-cost pads, but was shut down in 2015. They hope to take lessons from the successful business model of Muruganantham. To improve menstrual hygiene among female construction workers, the Department of Labour & Employment, Goa, will soon instal sanitary pad dispensing machines at industrial estates, construction sites, and government-run education institutions. It was an interesting move when an IT company in Thiruvanathapuram’s Technopark, Navigant India, tied up with a local NGO, Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre, and ran a campaign called #PADAID, aimed at spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene. As a part of it, employees were encouraged to donate packets of sanitary pad to underprivileged women and discuss issues around menstruation.

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First Published: Feb 16, 2018 18:20 IST