Israeli embassy launches project ‘Saaras’ for menstrual health in Ghaziabad
The centre was inaugurated on Tuesday by Naor Gilon, the Israeli ambassador to India as part of project “Saraas”, an initiative of the Israeli embassy in India, in collaboration with NGO Khushii, that aims at spreading awareness about menstrual health and hygiene, and building skills and capacity for women
Twenty seven-year-old Uzma Kazmi is popular among the women of Arthala village in Ghaziabad; it was she who helped them cope better with those “uncomfortable days” of the month by spreading awareness about menstrual health and hygiene and bringing within their reach cost-effective and eco-friendly sanitary napkins, “Saraas”.
Kazmi says the underprivileged women of her village had no access to “such luxuries” until a special centre in her village started manufacturing them at affordable rates.
The centre was inaugurated on Tuesday by Naor Gilon, the Israeli ambassador to India as part of project “Saraas”, an initiative of the Israeli embassy in India, in collaboration with NGO Khushii, that aims at spreading awareness about menstrual health and hygiene, and building skills and capacity for women.
Densely populated Arthala village, with small roads and narrow by-lanes criss-crossing the length and breadth of it, is located about 20km from the national capital of Delhi and houses an estimated 200,000 people, mostly belonging to lower income groups.
“Until a few years ago, sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene were unheard of in the village. With increasing awareness, women have started to understand the importance of menstrual health and hygiene but the costly pads still remained out of their reach. The newly opened centre will provide cost-effective pads to women and will also be a source of financial independence for our group who will take up different related activities,” said Kazmi. who has been active among the local woman for almost a decade now.
This manufacturing unit has been established with the help of MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation.
The centre now has a team of 15 women who are mostly from Arthala and it also has a capacity to manufacture 10,000 sanitary pads a day. Each pack of 10 is priced at ₹20, which is much lower than the cheapest such product available in the market.The Saaras brand of pads are also completely natural and do not go through any process of refining and chemical washing, the women said.
“Most of the women here have no means to buy sanitary pads from local shops for about ₹35-40 a pack. And it’s not just a lack of means that is a hindrance to menstrual health -- there are also issues related to conservatism and a lack of education. But with increasing awareness, these women are opening up to their needs and opting for a cost-effective solution,” said Ruby, another member of the team.
Ambassador Gilon said the embassy has tied up with a partner NGO that have the manpower and ability to professionally lead the project and make it sustainable in the long run.
“Since we are celebrating 30 years of full diplomatic relations between our two countries and also the wonderful relations between our people and governments, we decided to take up a special approach for women empowerment. This initiative is part of the ongoing activities undertaken by the embassy to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations between our countries,” he said.
Shani Rapoport Estiony, the head of public diplomacy at the Israel embassy, said, “I am very proud of the project Saaras. It represents the values that we, in the Israel embassy, strive to promote and execute.”
From the first step of production of pads till their distribution, the entire process is led by an all women local team that has been trained by NGO Khushii.
“Feminine well-being and cleanliness has been overlooked for a very long time, but it is something that has a huge potential to strengthen a girl during her formative years. Therefore, we are elated to be a part of such an empowering project,” said Harish Gosain, executive director, NGO Khushii.
“We have trained our women team in production, marketing and distribution of the pads, which are eco-friendly and biodegradable,” said Nitasha Dabla, manager (internal communication), Khushii.