Women Sarpanches, Anganwadi workers participate in MHM workshop in Punjab

To mark the World Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day on 28th May 2021, the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation, Punjab organised an online awareness workshop on MHM.  The programme was a part of the Mission Har Ghar Paani, Har Ghar Safai.

The central focus of the workshop was to sensitize the sarpanches and provide adequate information to them about the myths and misconceptions related to menstruation.

Participants at the virtual training programme were Panchayati Raj Institutions including women Sarpanches, Panchs, Anganwadi workers and district sanitation teams working in the villages to promote safe menstrual hygiene practices.

As many as 450 participants attended the online training online, each following the COVID-19 guidelines.  The District sanitation teams formed small groups of women and planned for them to collectively attend the training from common location points in various villages.

The success story of Village Aloona Tola in District Ludhiana where local women established a sanitary pad manufacturing unit, under the guidance of associates from The Roundglass Foundation was an important feature of the workshop.

Inaugurating the workshop, Mission Director, Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), Smt. Parneet Shergill encouraged participants to break the taboos relating to Menstrual Hygiene Management.  She insisted that girls be provided with accurate information and improved sanitation facilities in schools, to manage their hygiene, particularly during their periods. Lack of information about menstruation hygiene can result in shock, stress, and discomfort among girls, she warned.

Also speaking on the occasion, Dr. Pooja Parihar (MPH) a scholar, emphasized that hygiene and sanitation were important attributes to attain a healthy life, pointing out that Menstrual Hygiene encompassed menstruation, menstrual cycle, menstrual disorders and menstrual hygiene management.  She explained the importance of safe menstrual hygiene practices and cleared misconceptions and myths associated with menstruation.

On the other hand, Dr. Ravindra Khaiwal, Additional Professor, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh said that it was our collective responsibility to ensure that every girl is equipped with accurate information on menstruation as a normal biological process. Educating girls on menstruation management builds their self-esteem, and confidence, he said.

Ms. Sakshi Bhatia, an Associate working with Roundglass Foundation shared her experiences about working with women, having worked with more than 7000 young girls from rural schools in the villages of Punjab, helping them to deal with menstrual hygiene, while spreading awareness.

Success story of Village Aloona Tola:  Ms. Bhatia explained that during a survey in 2018, she found that a lot of young girls having no knowledge of menstrual hygiene were following unsafe practices.  To address this, she formed a team to motivate the womenfolk to talk openly about the issue and seek possible solutions to resolve problems.  Challenges arose at first, given that everyone was aware of the issues but were unwilling to take the lead to resolve them.

One Ms. Rajpal Kaur, a Panchayat member then came forward, enthusiastic about supporting the cause.  Together they formed a team that began to motivate adolescent girls and women to find solutions to the problems that arose.

It was gradual, but eventually all women began attending the meetings and small workshops.  It was decided at one of the meetings to form a SHG comprising of 10-15 women who can begin a small saving scheme and deposit their earnings in the bank to set up a start-up business.

In due course, the Nari shakti Self Help Group decided to establish a small sanitary pad manufacturing unit in the village. Approving of their decision, the Gram Panchayat provided them with some common place where they could commence work.  With additional monetary assistance from the Foundation, the women finally established a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in the village.

The women were formally trained in the process of making sanitary pads, sterilization, and packaging of the same by the NGO.  The cost of a packet containing 8 sanitary pads was sold at Rs 30.  The SHG members promoted their product through door-to-door visits to the households, while insisting that shopkeepers also sold their products too.

Best of all, the initiative empowered the rural women.  The SHG began getting orders from schools and the last order was for 40,000 packets for the middle and high schools of nearby villages. Each of the SHG members gained a profit of approximately Rs. 10,000.

Ms. Bhatia appealed to the Sarpanches to promote such initiatives in their villages. A question-and-answer session followed.   

Inputs:  Ms. Sevya Sharma, Community Development Specialist, DWSS

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