In perhaps the first-of-its kind initiative a Bengaluru NGO, which works with underprivileged girls and women, has started a fellowship focusing specifically on the critical issue of menstrual hygiene.
The Period Fellowship started by Sukhibhava is a year-long programme which will train 40 individuals from diverse fields to educate nearly one million girls in different regions of the country about menstrual hygiene.
The programme is scheduled to begin on May 15 and following a three-week training course, the candidates will be placed in the regions allotted to them.
“After their training, five fellows will be placed in each region with a programme coordinator. It is a paid fellowship programme where each fellow is paid Rs 30,000 per month,” explained Dilip Kumar Pattubala, co-founder of Sukhibhava.
The NGO is currently processing the applications that they have received so far.
In its current edition, the fellowship will focus on four cities, i.e., Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune, and four districts of Karnataka, i.e., Kalaburagi, Hubballi, Belagavi and Mysuru.
While awareness programmes around periods and related hygiene have increased over the past few years, what makes this fellowship different is its design and objective, according to Dilip.
“There are so many menstrual hygiene organisations which have been formed in the last decade. But there is not a single organisation that has touched a million lives till date. The fellowship is focussing on large scale impact in a short time,” he said.
Dilip also added that at times organisations are not able to carry out significant work because of less number of people working in the space.
“We feel that the Period Fellowship can become an entry point for a lot of dynamic individuals to actually experience the menstrual hygiene ecosystem in India and back their own initiatives at the end of the fellowship programme,” he stated.
From doctors to lawyers, journalists and social workers, professionals from diverse fields have applied for the fellowship. The NGO in turn hopes to use their skills in the most effective manner.
Dilip opined that in order to succeed, their main challenge will be changing people’s mindsets.
“In India, as soon as we talk about menstrual hygiene, people associate it with setting up sanitary pad manufacturing units and then distributing pads to girls and women. We, however, believe that the product is part of the issue and not the issue in its entirety. And unless we provide awareness to women, remove the stigma, increase accessibility to affordable products, we are not solving the problem in its entirety,” he said.
While the official date to send in applications for the fellowship has closed, those interested can still apply.