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Meet the Pad Women of India

Last updated on: February 14, 2018 13:01 IST

They have been working on menstrual hygiene awareness for years.

Pad Woman Pad Man Periods Menstruation

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Amani Dabriwala is only 19. But she has already understood the scope of the unawareness surrounding menstrual hygiene, and she is doing her bit to change things.

The South Mumbai resident is spending her gap year -- before heading abroad for higher studies -- visiting government and semi-government schools, where she gives presentations about the importance of using sanitary pads. 

Amani told the Asian Age, 'Forget villages, even city girls aren't completely aware of sanitary basics like hygiene, and disposal of pads.'

Pointing to the scope of unawareness she cited the story of a 13 year old: 'She used to get exceptionally tired during her periods and her parents would pressure her to do physical activities. I told her it is normal to be tired and that she can tell her parents the reason.'

Amani not only distributes sanitary napkins to them, she has also convinced some of the schools to make arrangements to dispose them off properly.

She told Mid Day, 'It is important that every school has such destroyers, but most schools lack these. After presentations and visits to schools, the authorities have agreed to install such destroyers. These sanitary napkin destroyers convert them into eco-friendly smoke in a field or open area near the schools and destroys about 100 napkins a day.'

She added that she now also wanted to reach out to villages and have sanitary napkin machines installed there.


Pad Woman Pad Man Periods Menstruation

Photograph: @mvishwakarmaa/Twitter

At a time when the entire country is talking about the film Pad Man, a woman scientist in Madhya Pradesh, who returned from the United States, has been silently working on her mission to educate tribal women about menstrual health and offering them cheap sanitary pads.

Maya Vishwakarma started her mission two years ago, prompted by her own experience of unsafe menstrual hygiene during her early years.

"I did not use sanitary pads till the age of 26. I even did not know about it. At that time, neither did I have money, nor information," she told the Press Trust of India. "I was told to use cloth by a woman relative during my first period. This had caused several infections. Talking about menstrual health is still a taboo in our society."

She added, "My experiences in early life inspired me to work in this field."

The 36-year-old biologist has returned to her village Mehragaon in Narsinghpur district from the US, where she went for higher studies, and is devoting her energy in spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene among tribal women and working on cost-effective manufacturing of quality sanitary pads under the banner of her organisation Sukarma Foundation.

Vishwakarma's campaign came into the spotlight just before the release of Pad Man, a fictionalised account of Tamil Nadu-based social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine.

Rediff.com caught up with 'Pad Didi' during her travels through 22 adivasi villages -- from February 8 to March 23 -- to spread menstrual hygiene awareness. Read her story here.

 

Miss World and Pad Woman
 

Miss World Manushi Chhillar menstrual hygiene

Photograph: @manushi_chhillar/Instagram

Did you know that spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene is Miss World Manushi Chhillar's pet project?

In fact, she is also part of a 'Beauty with Purpose' tour with beauty queens from around the globe to spread her message in India. Read all about it here.

Rediff Get Ahead Bureau