Irritated due to the increasing number of girl dropouts in government schools because of lack of menstrual hygiene, two class 11 students have taken upon themselves to educate underprivileged girls about the issue. Saranya Das Sharma and Aamiya Vishwanathan of Shri Ram School in Moulsari in New Delhi have come up with 'Project Sashakt' to educate underprivileged girls in schools across Delhi-NCR as well as provide them with biodegradable sanitary napkins to combat the burgeoning problem of menstrual waste.
"I read that girls actually have to leave school becausetheir schools don't have facilities and they themselves can'tafford basic products like pads," Saranya told PTI. Having started the project only in September 2016, Saranya and Aamiya have already collaborated with several NGOs to distribute year-long supply of pads to girls in two schoolshere - Earth Saviour's Gurukul and Nirmal Sewa School.
They have taken to social media to promote theirinitiative with a Facebook page, besides relying onword-of-mouth to spread the news. On their visits to the schools, they realised while awareness drives for sanitation were catching momentum acrossthe country, the topic of menstrual hygiene continued to be swept under the rug.
"Most girls know woefully little about their own bodies and its functions," says Saranya. To address this aspect of the problem, they conductworkshops on menstrual hygiene, before handing over thesanitary napkins.
"We start with teaching these girls how they can use and dispose sanitary napkins. Then we talk to them about basichygienic practices like bathing and washing hands," says Aamiya.
They also interact with the girls extensively to get familiar with the quintessential taboos associated with the issue. "We also address taboo subjects and explain why theyshould not be ignored and teach them about the infections thatcan occur and how they can treat them," says Saranya.
Narrating a "ridiculous" story they were told, she says, "One of the girls said her mother had asked her not to enterthe temple while she was on her period because that would bebad for her brother!" To ensure that medical facilities are easily accessible to the underprivileged girls, Amiya and Saranya also coordinate with the schools to locate the nearest doctors and provide the girls with a list of the same.
"Once the initial workshop is done, we personally deliverthe first set of pads to the girls. Then, we either send outboxes on a monthly basis or leave the right amount behind for the schools to distribute later," says Aamiya.
While they have already made their first few deliveries tonearly 200 girls across the city, they hope to increase their reach to 1,000 girls and 20 schools by the end of 2017.
"We hope to reach out to as many girls as we can. We havealso decided to visit the schools where the supplies have beenmade to monitor the progress," says Saranya.