The Zilla Parishad of Nadia in West Bengal has initiated a variety of programmes on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as a part of its ODF (open defecation free) Plus strategy.
ODF plus parameters include regular availability and usage of toilets, management of solid and liquid waste, cleanliness of water resources, maintenance of public and household toilets and awareness on personal hygiene including MHM.
To help roll out the programme, the district administration has engaged an NGO named Understanding the Tendencies of Social Symmetry (UTSA) which has the necessary expertise. It also plans to install four sanitary napkin manufacturing machines, one in each sub-division to increase availability and accessibility of the product.
Cascading mode of training: With a view to raising awareness on MHM and providing a road map for implementation of MHM related programmes effectively, training programmes were organized in a cascading mode at Block and GP level, with the objective of forming resource teams at Block, Gram Panchayat and Samsad levels as well as in schools.
As many as 620 functionaries from the Block level and 6,000 from the GP level participated in the Training programmes. There was extensive use of IEC materials including the screening of films on menstrual hygiene during the programme that saw active participation between trainers and participants.
Another thrust area was orienting teachers on Menstrual Hygiene Management. Around 800 teachers participated in such training programmes in 3 batches. For starters, each school was given 50 packets of sanitary pads, each containing 2 pieces. The teachers welcomed the initiative, saying it would contribute greatly towards improving hygiene and sanitation among school students.
Pink Flag Movement: A programme on social behaviour change communication called the Pink Flag Movement was implemented in 24 schools. Held for the first time in Nadia, the objective was to orient adolescent school students about MHM. It involved constituting of school level Clubs called the ‘PINK FLAG CLUB’ comprising of 30-40 students who would be oriented to MHM through colourful and playful activities.
Having already commenced in 24 schools where clubs have been formed with support from UTSA, the initiative has received enthusiastic response from both students and teachers. The clubs feature a number of activities, including drama, quiz, essay and drawing competitions, awareness sessions and film shows. Further, nodal teachers of all the schools in the district, who participated in the Teachers Training programme, have shown eagerness to implement the programme in their own schools. Hence, the district administration is planning to scale up the programme across the district. One of the issues that cropped up repeatedly in all training programmes was the non-availability of good quality and affordable sanitary napkins. To cater to this need, the district administration will be installing sanitary napkin manufacturing units.
Sanitary Napkin Manufacturing Initiative: The district administration has installed two sanitary napkin manufacturing units – one in Duttapulia in Ranaghat II block and another in Patikabari in Nakashipara block to be operated by SHG Clusters. Both the units are technologically advanced and capable of manufacturing around 10,000 sanitary napkins per day. The technical support for the unit has been provided by Fulcrum Hygiene Solutions. The district administration has also made provisions for extensive training and hand-holding support for SHG members who will be engaged in production, marketing, awareness building and accounts. Even as training has commenced, the district administration plans to install one manufacturing unit in every block of the district to augment livelihood activities.
The decision to install manufacturing units has two benefits – availability and accessibility of good quality and affordable sanitary napkins and creation of livelihoods for SHG members. With this focused and holistic approach, Nadia will soon become a model to be followed elsewhere.