Garima Abhiyan – breaking the taboo around menstruation

With a view to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation, the aspirational district of Simdega in Jharkhand launched a campaign titled, Garima Abhiyan in September 2018.  It conducted workshops and provided eco-friendly sanitary napkins to residents, the target being to sensitize students and women, and at the same time ensure safety and sustainability.

The 5-month long programme carried out in collaboration with WSSCC (Water Sanitation Supportive and Collaborative Council) for knowledge and logistic support, addressed key issues pertaining to menstrual health.   With the help of over 3,000 front line workers, the district team was able to reach out to 774 schools and 964 anganwadis across all the villages of the district sensitizing both men and women of all ages.

“By organizing sensitization and awareness building workshops on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) issues in all the villages of the district and promoting local production of Biodegradable sanitary napkins, we aspire to overcome the social taboo and also to lead in becoming a menstrual waste free district in the upcoming years,” said Deputy Commissioner of Simdega, Ms. Vipra Bhal.

Commenting on the initiative, Simdega’s District Fellow under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme (TADP), Mr. Satwik Mishra said, “We wanted to break the taboo around this issue.  We wanted to involve everyone in the community, irrespective of age and gender, so that they become more willing to help and take action.”

Process:  Garima Abhiyan was organised in three phases. In the first phase, 65 frontline workers from departments of education, social welfare, and health were trained in all aspects of menstruation with the help of charts, videos and question-answer sessions.  Thereafter, they were encouraged to break the taboo within their own circles.  Women were asked to share stories of their first period experience with fellow trainers.  Initial hesitation led to gradual opening up when women broke the silence on this subject.  Men joined in later, speaking of their mothers and sisters who were hesitant to talk about periods.

During the second phase, the 65 trainers went on to coach over 3000 others; while the third phase comprised of numerous workshops in anganwadis and schools.  From the whole lot, about 450 trainers were chosen to form the ‘Garima Fauj’ and oversee village level workshops across the district.

Eco-friendly napkins:  Ensuring availability of eco-friendly and hygienic napkins, was the next target; the intention being to create a product that is free of chemicals and plastics and will not contribute to pollution.  Towards this end, Udaipur based NGO – Jatan trained women from Self-Help Groups (SHG) to stitch cotton napkins in four varieties, priced between Rs 30 and Rs 50. Each napkin takes about 10-15 minutes to stitch and can be reused for up to a year. The local production unit plans to market these napkins under the name of ‘Miss Garima Sanitary Pad’.

Sustainability: Rather than producing chemical laden products that require incinerators for disposal, the district administration is keen to take up sustainable approaches.  In the pipeline are plans to expand production so that eco-friendly napkins can be distributed to more consumers.  The campaign will be an annual feature to ensure that the impact does not diminish.  While the project will be scaled up to a state level, other districts such as Latehar, Bokaro and Muzaffarpur, taking inspiration from Simdega, would like to implement similar campaigns.

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