Championing health equity
Senior Procurement Manager Sharmila Bhatnagar shares the potentially life-saving initiative in India to promote menstrual health among young women in rural areas.
We always try to make a positive, responsible and long-lasting impact through our community social responsibility projects here in India and seek to contribute to building a just, fair, sustainable and prosperous society.
One of the key areas of our social responsibility programme is women’s empowerment, so on International Women’s Day in 2020, our team launched the Menstrual Health Hygiene Project for adults and students at one of NGO Literacy India’s schools in New Delhi.
Its focus was on improving awareness of best menstrual hygiene practices through talks, videos and posters and, as part of the project, we sponsored the installation and refilling for one year of a sanitary pad vending machine at the school, which women could buy for a minimal cost of just one Rupee.
During our ongoing work with Literacy India, we realised raising awareness of this issue would be crucial. There is a lot of taboo in India surrounding menstrual hygiene and many myths to be dispelled, so the majority of women from rural areas lack awareness of basic menstrual sanitation. That lack of knowledge can expose them to infections, potential reproductive complications and sometimes life-threatening diseases, so although this was only a small project, we felt it was critical to start somewhere and get the ball rolling.
When we announced the project internally, I was really impressed by the number of colleagues who volunteered to be part of it, particularly male colleagues. We had a fantastic team that introduced the topic in a sensitive and informative way, helping the children and their mothers understand the importance of menstrual hygiene to their overall health and wellbeing.
Initially, we had planned an in-person event and put a lot of work in to organising that, but sadly due to health and safety measures being taken in the light of Covid-19, the workshop and inauguration of the project had to be done remotely through video conferencing. That said, the level of enthusiasm and participation was still high.
Despite not being able to conduct a proper audit of the project, we know we have helped more than 300 adults and students at the Literacy India school and we are exploring how we can move it forward in the coming years. Anecdotally, we have also heard students are now much more vocal about the topic and Literacy India has reached out to various other organisations to help them continue funding the vending machine. Given how taboo the subject was before we launched the project, this represents real progress and is something we hope to build on in future.