While there are many projects initiated to create awareness about menstruation and hygiene amongst the lesser-privileged, this particular project takes a leap of faith. Unique, it has been started by two young teenage girls from the city, Nina Reddy and Preethi Subbiah to create menstruation awareness among underprivileged girls.
Project Svaasthy educates young girls who are unaware of menstrual hygiene and the use of pads, because it is a taboo. Through this project, they are creating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene via workshops in rural areas as well as to underserved communities. They are also distributing sanitary napkins and the Menstrupedia comic as a guide to let girls understand the issue at hand. Working towards implementing solutions, in the past two months, the Bengaluru school girl duo have impacted the lives of 300 girls, and handed out over 2,400 sanitary pads with the aid of Apollo Hospitals, in many government schools and orphanages in the city. Now, they have stepped on to a bigger path, and are now going to the United Nations to conduct various advocacy campaigns to further their cause to make sanitary napkins affordable for girls. Nina and Preethi are also planning fundraisers like bake sales and walkathons, and conduct atleast two workshops every month in various orphanages and government schools in the city, while distributing more than 5,000 sanitary pads by the end of April.
“Svaasthy began as we were keen on educating and creating awareness among young girls who did not have access to information on menstruation. We were heartbroken to see infant girls sit bare on the road and that got us thinking about the health of these young girls and what they would go through post-puberty. As we dove deeper we heard emotional stories from girls and this fuelled our passion for this topic. This project is connected deeply to our hearts. We knew we were heading in the right direction when we saw hundreds of smiles after our workshop,” says the 14-year-old Nina.
More than that both the girls have been friends since the seventh standard and say that they had always dreamt of taking up an initiative to empower women. This opportunity presented to them in the ninth standard by 1M1B, a future leaders program couldn’t have been a better chance. Preethi who just turned 15, talks about the much-suppressed topic in schools within the community and their experience with the girls in these schools says, “We found that in the schools and orphanages, menstruation was quite a hushed topic even between their female peers. We found it rather surprising that they started to open up to us and their peers about their perspectives, doubts and fears towards the end of each workshop.”
Nina and Preethi have also created a website to spread awareness about menstrual health and garner support for the initiative with a petition to remove the GST imposed on sanitary pads, which is an issue always been raised after implementation of GST which has gained over 1100 supporters on change.org. “This is our first step in our journey. We want to continue to reach out to many more girls, empower them to be proud of their womanhood and break the stigma around menstruation by spreading awareness to their communities,” said both the girls.
In their free time, they spend time outdoors as both of them are passionate about sports, music and photography, as all of this captures the joy of life! Their message to the people: In this endeavour we have started a petition to get attention from the appropriate government authorities so that sanitary napkins can become tax-free, we request you to please sign it and further support us in getting support for the campaign....