Even after films highlighting the menstrual struggle faced by women in villages, many people in India believe that sanitary pads are dirty and are an embarrassing thing. On top of that, in a conventional decorum, the mere mention of periods is a matter of shame.
The worst statistic says, 80 per cent of women still use home-made pads that are dangerous and can lead to an array of diseases caused by a redundant social taboo.
To break free from the taboo, Vedaprana Purkayastha took the help of the popular social media Facebook and connected with over 60,000 women through her Facebook page – The Saree Saga. The project was initiated by menstrual hygiene activist from Manipur, Urmila Ch. Vedaprana with her army of 68000 women, who came together through a Facebook group, has collected over 500 sanitary pads in four days and to be distributed in Assam’s Guwahati, Manipur, Bengaluru, West Bengal and other states.
Vedaprana, who left behind her job as an editor in Delhi-based digital media to follow her passion, said that she is overwhelmed by the response she received.
“We started with limited resources. This wasn’t my initiative when I started it. But, I was sure that there are many women on Facebook who trust me and would support me,” said Vedaprana while speaking to TIME8.
She added, “I never anticipated to have collected so many pads in just four days. I realized how all of us want to help the underprivileged section of the society but can’t do much due to lack of proper opportunities.”
Vedaprana, who is now settled at Bengaluru, said that distributing sanitary pads will not “bust the social taboo associated with menstruation”.
“Social taboos stop people to talk about menstruation openly or allowing the unmarried girls to use menstrual cups. Donating pads won’t solve the issue. However, it is the first step to make the girls aware of menstruation hygiene. It is to tell them how important it is to take care of their private parts during menstruation,” she added.
Vedaprana further shared that she is in talks with a Karnataka-based NGO for making biodegradable pads which can be distributed among the rural women in and around Karnataka and Assam.
Around 432 million pads/sanitary napkins are generated in India annually, weighing around 9000 tonnes. A survey in 2013 revealed that the women were unaware of the potential threats of sanitary napkins – and many of them dump them in open fields. The unhygienic means of disposing of the used sanitary napkins adversely affect the environment.
“Biodegradable pads is the need of the hour to save the environment. But, such pads are not easily available in the markets at an affordable price and not many are aware of it. I have recently heard someone has started making affordable biodegradable pads for women of Assam. I am hopeful to get in touch with them and help with the promotional part,” she said.
It may be mentioned that a film – Period. End of Sentence – based on young women in an Indian village who make sanitary pads has won an Oscar for best documentary short.
Guwahati | Edited by: Arpita Das | First Published: May 08, 2019