Solving Problems One Pad At A Time
Project Baala is an initiative run by Soumya Dabriwal and Nitisha Sethia to help the girls who drop out of school and face basic hygiene difficulties while menstruating and have changed the lives of close to 4000 women in 5 states across India by providing them with sanitary pads.
A recent report shows that about 88% of menstruating women in India do not have access to sanitary products during their period, and use alternatives like pieces of rag, ash, sand and husk. As a result, almost 1 in every 4 adolescent girls in the country quits school when she hits puberty. Poor menstrual hygiene is also responsible for almost 70% of reproductive diseases in India.
On the other hand, lies another grim scenario.
Sanitation pads promote pollution because 90% of the pads are not bio-degradable and made of plastic. The three components majorly used are the thin top layer, known as the dry-weave top sheet, is made of polypropylene, a plastic polymer and the padding in the middle is generally wood pulp mixed with super absorbent polymers and the leak-proof layer is made with an impermeable polyethylene.
Studies show that these pads take up to 500-800 years to decompose and one woman can generate up to 125 kg of this waste through her mensurating years.
- What is the solution that solves both the problems of women hygiene and pollution at the same time? Project Baala became the answer to this question, which is founded by Soumya Dabriwal and Nitisha Sethia which aims to spread awareness about menstruation in rural areas especially schools with environment-friendly sanitary pads. The initiative was launched due to their common background as social workers and a drive to educate the rural female population about menstruation hygiene.
They had witnessed these problems first hand while volunteering and working in the urban and rural slums and found it disturbing that something so normal for middle-class people affected their education and income of nearly half the female population of India.
They added, when we meet these girls and ask them about menstruation, most of the times, we get fascinating yet hard to believe responses. One of the girls told us, Periods are a way for god to tell me that I have done something wrong.
Their initiative was able to distinguish itself from other similar projects by providing sanitary pads to rural women which were environment-friendly at the same time. This provided a solution to two problems at the same time. The pads are reusable and they distribute them to rural girls along with basic education about menstruation.
The pads provided by Project Baala are re-usable and can be used for a period of 1.5 to 2 years. The pad is made of three layers of cloth stitched together, and Soumya and Nitisha distribute a kit of 3 sanitary napkins to every woman who participates in their menstruation awareness workshops.
- Project Baala has been traveling to villages across India with their menstruation and sanitation workshops. So far they have the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh and hope to cover the entire country. The persistent taboo around menstruation is a major factor in the lack of awareness. It was when we spoke to the mothers of the girls, who have been menstruating for so many years now, that we realized that India needs greater menstruation awareness. Our aim is to do just that, explains Soumya Dabriwal. Project Baala is in its initial phase, where both the founders are going to one village at a time and distributing sanitary napkins and educating the masses. They get their feedback by contacting schools and taking stock of attendance.
We have seen an increase in the attendance over the period of time in all the states we have covered so far but will get actual impact after some time only as currently the campaign is in its initial phase, added Nitisha Sethia.
A 2016 report on sanitation facilities for women across India reveals that around 63 million adolescent girls live in homes without toilet facilities and 23% of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating. One of the leading factors for leaving school is the girl’s lack of toilets in their schools.
The stigma around this natural biological process is so huge in India that one rarely even hears this word spoken out loud. In fact, the problem of women’s hygiene and improper disposal of menstrual waste is a major roadblock in achieving the Swachh Bharat Mission’s goal of a clean India by 2019. Thanks to these swachh warriors, around 4,000 women of 5 states across India have already started seeing a change in their lives.
Banega Swachh India in its third year aims to get the entire nation to come together once again this 2nd October. A day where we urge all Indians to take up swachhta as their personal responsibility and join our movement.