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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Mumbai NGO helps women stitch reusable sanitary pads

Many women in the slums are unable to afford sanitary napkins from the market

mumbai Updated: Apr 29, 2018 00:45 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times
The tailoring unit sells two sanitary pads for Rs250.
The tailoring unit sells two sanitary pads for Rs250.(HT PHOTO)

A group of ten women from Dharavi has started stitching reusable sanitary napkins in a small room, with the help of a local non -governmental organisation (NGO) as many women in the slums are unable to afford sanitary napkins from the market.

They have been stitching carry bags, file covers and jewellery from donated clothes, curtains and bedsheets, since the last three years. However, the idea of stitching sanitary napkins occurred to them only a few month ago when two sisters from NGO Dharavi Diary held a workshop on menstrual hygiene for them.

“A lot of them said they can’t afford to buy the sanitary napkins every month. Even the ones who could, said disposing them off was a very big problem as the garbage is not cleared regularly,” said Rupali Kadam, 20, a Dharavi resident and chemical engineering student who conducted the workshop along with her sister.

“Almost all the women said they used thick cotton cloths during their menstrual periods but again drying them was challenge. Even if the cloth is slightly wet before use, it causes bacterial and fungal infections,” she added.

The NGO is helping the women to improve the design of the pads by conducting workshops with health experts and designers. However, girls and women are already using the prototype they have created. The napkin is made up of a cotton cloth and has buttons to enclose it around the underwear. Then napkins are designed in such a way that it takes shape of a handkerchief when drying them.

“Women are not comfortable drying their sanitary clothes in the open, because of which we thought of this design,” said Rumana Sikander, 27, who heads the tailoring unit. They sell the kit of two reusable napkins for Rs250. “The napkins can be reused for at least five months,” Sikander said.Many young girls in Dharavi tried used the napkins and gave their feedback to the NGO.

Nawneet Ranjan, the founder of Dharavi Diary, said the idea is to make them a part of the narrative or the problem. “If they need sanitary napkins, we find donors, but it is not sustainable. We need to give them problem solving abilities,” said Ranjan.

Mallamma Anand, 37, Dharavi resident who works at the unit, said that the job not only ensures her financial security, but also gives her a confidence boost.

“Initially, my husband, who works as a painter, was very reluctant to let me work. He then allowed me as the place is very close to our house. I save the money we make for my children,” Anand said.