Menstrual Hygiene Management project in Medha
Tanishka Foundation in Medha village, Satara district
Low cost production of eco-friendly (bio degradable) sanitary napkins, with local level employment for women.
Talking about menstrual has always been a taboo in the Indian society. Adolescent girls often drop out of schools because of not having adequate menstrual hygiene management. Many schools do not support adolescent girls or female teachers in managing menstrual hygiene with dignity. Inadequate water and sanitation facilities, make managing menstruation very difficult, and poor sanitary materials can result in girls ultimately dropping out of school. As a result, girls have been reported to miss school during their menstrual periods or even drop out completely. Similar problems are faced by the women.
Medha village in Satara district of Maharashtra was also facing the similar problem. Neha Bhandari the group coordinator lost one of her closest friends because of lack of menstrual hygiene which complicated the medial problems. The Tanishka group of Medha decided that women’s health especially menstrual hygiene was a burning issue in their community and something needs to be done in this regard.
A root cause analysis followed by brain storming was conducted in the group. The members discussed on how the issue of menstrual hygiene was affecting their lives, how to maintain proper menstrual health and hygiene through behavior change communication. The group found that women were mostly using the traditional method of clothes and there were serious issues of health and hygiene. The readymade sanitary pads were expensive in the market for the women and adolescent girls to buy. All the women and girls in the village that the Tanishka group interacted with were eager to buy sanitary napkins provided they were at reduced costs and ensured quality.
This seems to be a business opportunity for the Tanishka group and also at the same time ensuring menstrual health and hygiene. The group started researching and finding out avenues to set up this business unit. The local NGO in Satara district where Neha Bhandari was working was ready to give space and also establish the linkages with the bank to procure the machines. The group approached a couple of banks and finally Bank of Baroda agreed to provide them loans. The machinery was finally procured from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu The raw materials were procured from the districts of Sangli and Satara. The training and capacity building for the group was provided by the state’s entrepreneurship development centre (EDC), who further guided them for technical assistance from UNICEF.
The unique feature of the sanitary napkin is that no chemicals are used thus promoting this as an eco friendly product. The women’s group branded the napkin as “Nirmal” meaning is a ray of hope. The selling point for the sanitary napkins was that it offers rural women a very personal and intimate health aide at a price point and through women-led marketing channels. After the initiation of the business schools, colleagues, villages were contact to market the product. The group members conducted sessions on menstrual management and also did demonstration on the correct use of the menstrual napkins. In the first three months the group reached the net sales of INR 1 lakh. The innovative experience was widely covered by Sakal newspaper which generated ample publicity for them. The group is now planning to scale up the business in across the district. The story was shared widely in the Tanishka Foundation and many groups have got interested to initiate the project in their own locations.