Women groups in Barmer fight hygiene battle with low-cost sanitary pads
Superstitions and cultural taboos associated with periods have persisted at the cost of women’s health and safety. Studies show a link between infections that cause cervical cancer and poor menstrual health.jaipur Updated: Feb 11, 2018 16:23 IST
Rajjo Devi, a 27-year-old woman from Kau Ka Kheda village in western Rajasthan’s Barmer district, spreads the message of ‘PadMan’, a Bollywood movie that focuses on menstrual hygiene in rural India through low-cost sanitary napkins.
Rajjo Devi not only talks about menstrual hygiene, considered a taboo in a backward region steeped in centuries-old traditions, to create awareness among rural women, but also ensures cheap sanitary pads to them. She has been carrying forward the menstrual hygiene mission in Barmer for the past four years.
Superstitions and cultural taboos associated with periods have persisted at the cost of women’s health and safety. Studies show a link between infections that cause cervical cancer and poor menstrual health.
A number of village women have joined Rajjo Devi to usher in a change. These women produce and sell sanitary pads under the brand name ‘Resham’. As part of its corporate social responsibility, Cairn Oil and Gas -- an oil exploration company working in Barmer -- has launched the initiative Resham, under which women and self-help groups produce low-cost and high-quality sanitary napkins.
Under this project, sanitary pad manufacturing units have been set up at Kau Ka Kheda, Mundhon Ki Dhani, Dhandlawas and some other villages in Barmer district. Pads are sold to women and girls who were earlier forced to use unhygienic cloths during menstrual period, often leading to diseases.
Women who spearheaded the mission and those who get cheap sanitary pads at their hutments are happy about the change. “Bazaar ja ne lavan me ghani dorayi revti. O chokho hei, ghare ij mil jaave, (buying these napkins from the market is quite challenging. This is now easy, it gets delivered to our hutments),” said Keku Devi, who has been using napkins now.
Geeta Devi of Dhandalawas village said: “It was not possible for us to travel with the dirty cloth that we used earlier. It (Resham pad) is easy to manage and now I can travel without any inconvenience.”
Sanitary machines are operated through women self-help groups. Wood pulp, purchased from Coimbatore through orders, is used to produce cheaper sanitary napkins that are on par with other pads in quality. Each pack consisting of two napkins is sold at Rs 5. Ten-member self-help groups have been trained to manufacture, package, market and sell napkins.
“One can hardly believe that in a large number of women are not allowed to leave their houses during their menstrual cycle. During their periods, girls stay home instead of going to schools and often drop out permanently,” said Sanjay Thakur, a health activist.
Menstruation is stigmatised and contributes to gender inequalities in rural society. Most of the adolescent girls in villages use rags and old clothes during menstruation, increasing susceptibility to reproductive tract infections, Thakur said.
“Thanks to Cairn India, which not only understood the seriousness of the issue but also ensured the better solution by providing wings of freedom to the women who are risking their health due to taboo related to menstruation.”