For over two years, a teacher based in Mangaluru has been leading a group of students in manufacturing affordable sanitary pads for low-income groups. Prameela Rao, a faculty member at Government College in the city, says they have distributed close to 6,000 pads since inception in Gurupur, Bajpe, Surathkal and Dandeli and other rural areas in and around the Dakshina Kannada district.
Prameela has created a volunteer group of young students, mostly boys, to learn and understand the production of sanitary pads.
Under the group’s trust, ‘Kalpa,’ they have also tied up with New Delhi-based Goonj Foundation, where volunteers have been trained in the production of sanitary pads since 2014.
Through the work, Prameela hopes to educate her students on menstruation and menstrual health, as well as dispel common misconceptions.
“Similar to extending aid to any other health condition, it is important that every boy or man, must be aware of the menstruation cycle. It’ll help them to understand and help their mother, sister, wife as well as daughter and develop a sense of empathy towards women in general” she said.
Prameela has also worked extensively to create awareness on unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural areas and among economically-backward communities. In 2017, the group raised a trust called ‘Kalpa’ which focused on reaching out to underprivileged sections of society.
Process of making pads
“Initially, we wash the cotton fabrics and sterilise them, then we cut it into 8 by 9 inches and iron them. Then, we fill it with the medicinal cotton, along with other bedding of the same size and stitch it from all sides,” Prameela said.
According to the group, after the successful production of pads, it is packed and labelled under ‘Swastya.’ The pads are then distributed in rural areas by the student initiative. If sold, a sanitary packet of 10 will cost Rs. 60.
The group is working towards a manufacturing goal of around 20,000 pads. The pads are made by the student volunteers using sterilised cotton cloth and medical cotton under hygienic conditions. “We are also examining the use of alternative, environmental-friendly and decomposable materials or fabric that can be used to manufacture sanitary pads,” Prameela said.
The Kalpa Trust also conducts street plays on how menstruation is an important part of a woman's life and the kind of care that should be taken by them.
Pranav Shetty, who works at a local college, writes scripts for the plays. The group notes that just like television, newspaper and radio are effective methods of communication, street plays are a cost-effective way of making an impact as well. The team has performed street plays in Mangaluru and outside the city. The plays are written in tandem with the folklore of the local region.
Sujatha, a resident of a Koraga colony, said that the group, along with Prameela, visit residential areas every month. “There is a kind of hesitation among women to speak or raise concerns on subject of menstruation. The volunteers not only give us advice on the subject, but also distribute ‘Swastya’ sanitary pads. Several women use it, and it is comfortable,” she said.
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