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Pad ‘organisations’ working to bring menstrual health, hygiene to women across India

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    New Delhi, Jan 23: Finally, in 2018, thanks to the Bollywood film, Padman, set to get released on February 9, India is talking about periods, at least in a few forums openly.

    Since the film is based on the true-life story of Tamil Nadu activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, whose mission is to provide sanitary napkins to poor women of rural areas, these days, discussion about the otherwise taboo subject--menstruation-invariably veers towards menstrual awareness, health and hygiene.

    sanitary pads

    Menstruation is a taboo topic, as bleeding women/girls are mostly considered as impure and dirty in India, like in many parts of the world. Thus most often the menstrual health and hygiene parts get ignored.

    If reports are to be believed, due to lack of awareness and poverty, thousands of menstruating women/girls don't use sanitary napkins in India. Instead, they use rags, ashes and husk sand.

    Thus, incidents of Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) are very common among these women. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 report shows that the use of sanitary napkins among Indian women is 48.5 per cent in rural, 77.5 per cent in urban and 57.6 per cent total.

    Reports say in India, 24 per cent teenagers are forced to skip their schools owing to menstruation.

    [Read: WOW! Meet Bengaluru's Pad 'women' spreading the message of happy, hygienic periods]

    In spite of all the bad news, we have good people and NGOs, like real-life hero Muruganantham, who have broken barriers to providing health, hygiene and comfort to women, especially in poverty-stricken and rural areas.

    Here we bring you a list of a few NGOs working in India to provide menstrual health and hygiene:

    1. The Ammada Trust runs a campaign, #GiveHer5, to help provide sanitary napkins to rural girls so that they don't miss their schools during periods. "The #GiveHer5 campaign is attempting to give her 5 of 'those' days back, so she never misses out on school again. The campaign was initiated by Ashok Kurien and the Ammada Trust to crowdsource funds to give girls Saafkins - a reusable, 12-hour menstrual protection," stated the website of GiveHer5 campaign.

    As a part of the campaign, the trust seeks donation starting from Rs 150 to help rural school girls to continue their studies during periods.

    2. Goonj, the NGO, is the brainchild of Roman Magsaysay Award winner Anshu Gupta. As a part of its initiative--Not Just a Piece of Cloth--Goonj provides clean cloth sanitary pads to women in villages.

    3. The Auroville-based organisation, Eco Femme, provides education to girls and women about menstruation and how to have a dignified menstrual experience. It also manufactures washable and reusable cloth pads.

    4. The Delhi-based NGO, Sacchi Saheli, conducts sessions on menstrual awareness in various slums of the city. The Break the Bloody Taboo campaign of the NGO aims to break the common myths about menstruation among the female population.

    5. Aakar Innovations gives biodegradable and affordable sanitary pads to rural women who do not have access to it.

    6. The Bengaluru-based WOW started its journey six months ago. It primarily focuses on distributing menstrual kits to poor women in the city and neighbouring areas. 

    Each WOW kit includes one year supply of quality sanitary napkins, soaps and two panties. Each kit costs Rs 500. For their work, WOW depends on financial aid from various donors. WOW members also conduct regular awareness programmes on menstrual health and hygiene.

    Here we have mentioned the names of six NGOs. However, there are several other organisations and individuals working quietly to end taboo associated with menstruation and popularise healthy and hygienic practices among girls and women during periods.

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