HT Salutes: His mission is menstrual hygiene of migrant women
At the beginning of the lockdown, in March, Soans launched an initiative called World Hunger Warriors. His aim was to connect people in his extensive network who wanted to donate funds, food, cooking equipment, space, ingredients, fuel or labour.Updated: Jul 11, 2020 19:55 IST
Amid the migrant crisis, the one thing Kiran Soans thought about was whether the women, who were undertaking the long and arduous journey back home on road, had any access to sanitary hygiene products. Even for those who stayed back in the cities of work, the absence of income would have meant reduced access to sanitary napkins.
“So we thought about it and started looking for someone who could provide sanitary napkins,” said Bengaluru-based Soans (44) who heads an event management company called Goldrush Entertainment. “And it struck us, why not just make them ourselves? We could employ women daily wage earners, teach them how to make the pads, and then hand the pads out free.”
At the beginning of the lockdown, in March, Soans launched an initiative called World Hunger Warriors. His aim was to connect people in his extensive network who wanted to donate funds, food, cooking equipment, space, ingredients, fuel or labour.
Watch | HT Salutes: Bangalore initiative that helps women make reusable sanitary pads
He now has a network of 50 apartment kitchens and four commercial kitchens making the food and over 100 volunteers hand out cooked meals to migrant workers and other underprivileged people in Bengaluru. It was through this network that he heard of the urgent need for sanitary pads.
Searching for companies that manufactured reusable pads, he stumbled upon Stonesoup, and reached out. He didn’t want to buy their product, he told them. But could they help him figure out how he could make his own?
Stonesoup agreed to help. The design the two settled on was a durable, washable waterproof jacket, to be provided by the company; the women would make the cotton cloth inserts. Each jacket would be handed out with a set of five inserts. The whole thing could be washed, sunned and reused multiple times.
“We settled on this design because the washable inserts look like regular cloth napkins and can be hung out to dry in the sun without stigma attached,” Soans said.
WHW now works with 50 women in Yelahanka and Sarjapur, most of whom previously worked on construction sites. Soans sources korra cotton from local traders and the women, with a little training, have begun production. They call the pads Shaktipack.
It’s a relatively slow process, since quality checks take time, but since the end of April, the women have made 200 Shaktipack pads; 55 were distributed on July 1.
“We use our production units in Dindigul for the leakproof jackets, because those require machines to put together, but the inserts are easy to hand-stitch,” says Smita Kulkarni, co-founder of Stonesoup. “It feels like a great way to be involved.”
Sheela Manu, 26, a construction site labourer who has used the pad, said she prefers them to the low-cost disposable ones she had been using. “These are more comfortable, especially in summer,” she added.
WHW has started a fundraising campaign on crowd-sourcing website, Ketto.org, called ‘ShaktiPack4Women’ to raise money that would enable them to employ 500 women and make over 5,000 sanitary.
“The women say the pads are comfortable and give them security. We hope the campaign works out and we find a way to continue this into the future,” Soans said.
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