New Delhi: Born out of the Covid 19crisis, a women’s healthcare initiative to distribute affordable sanitary pads has taken off with a pilot project atMathura, backed by a network of young volunteers, several of whom are bureaucrats posted across the country.
The initiative, which runs on the back of women self help groups roped in to distribute sanitary pads and raise awareness, started in April this year as the lockdown was enforced, disrupting supply chains and the migrant population hit the hardest.
NGO Sangini Saheli distributed 12.86 lakh sanitary napkins across 17 states of India, roping in young bureaucrats who volunteered to help with distribution and logistics during the lockdown. Seeing the demand for affordable sanitary pads, the NGO has now started a pilot project at Mathura that will gradually be expanded to other districts.
“The team with about 167 volunteers has taken up its first pilot project of 100 per cent coverage in a handpicked district beginning with Uttar Pradesh. We are building a program to provide a long term solution, particularly in low wage income communities who face continuous financial struggles in ensuring their menstrual hygiene needs,” Priyal Bhardwaj the founder of Sangini Saheli says.
Even as the pilot is underway, the NGO is building a self-sufficient model for 253 women self-help groups who will be given financial incentives for distributing low cost sanitary pads across the country.
“A start has been made and the initiative will help raise awareness about health issues. It is a profit model where self help group volunteers get some financial incentives to distribute the sanitary pads. The response in rural areas has been even better than in urban zones,”
Dr Nitin Gaur, Mathura Chief Development Officer, an IAS officer of the 2016 batch says.
The young bureaucrat says that it is a self sustaining model as self help group volunteers will be incentivized to create demand and would give a boost to women’s health, specially in rural areas where awareness has been limited.
Bhardwaj says that the idea to start the initiative came when the NGO was working on distribution of food packets to migrant labourers in Bhangel Barat Ghar in Noida, when a young woman requested for help in obtaining sanitary pads.
“In the initial days of the drive there were about 10 Shramik trains running each day, carrying about 1250 passengers and 40 per cent of the passengers were women and mostly at child-bearing age. We made sure to provide at least 1.5 lakh packets of sanitary pads to these women as they rushed back to their villages with no certainty of their health whereabouts,” Bharadwaj says.
The NGO is also supporting patients and volunteers fighting COVID-19 at Sardar Patel COVID Centre at Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Chattarpur, billed as the world’s largest such care facility.