The contents of a menstrual hygiene kit must be put together taking into consideration the inputs and preferences of women and girls in the community you plan to help. Sometimes it is more than giving free sanitary napkins,” says Sudhir Mehta, president RC Deonar, RID 3141. Through Project Red, the club is distributing “context-specific items to school girls from underprivileged backgrounds.”
Initially the club, with the help of its RCC, visited schools on the outskirts of Mumbai to study the menstruation related needs of adolescent students. Project chair Dr Rajashri Mokashi was shocked to find that many girls weren’t attending school because of poor menstrual hygiene management. “The teachers and few students hesitantly told us that they had no underwear to place a sanitary napkin on. We realised that the issue wasn’t about the availability of napkins, it was more basic and we had to address it in a meaningful way.” More items were added to the menstrual hygiene kit which now includes a set of underwears, sanitary napkins, hand and detergent soap, sanitiser and a towel.
Apart from having “a direct impact on the dignity, health, education, community involvement, and security of women and girls, the distribution of these kits is also an entry point for introducing educational material on sexual, reproductive health and rights for these girls who have always been told that periods are taboo,” Rajashri points out.
The awareness programme under Project Red addresses the stigmas and challenges associated with menstruation. “But more importantly, it helps students understand the biology behind it,” she adds. The club aims to spread the knowledge for a sustainable change in hygiene management among the girl students from various schools around Karjat and the slums of Chembur and Mankhurd, in Mumbai. A DDF funded the first 1,000 menstrual hygiene kits. The club members raised funds for the remaining 3,000 kits.
After receiving a request for baby warmers from the Shatabdi Hospital, Mumbai, Mehta and Rajashri visited the neonatal unit at the BMC-run hospital only to find that although it had “high footfalls, most of the equipment was outdated and the number of neonatal transfers to other hospitals for issues like neonatal jaundice was high”. Instead of baby warmers, the club donated four phototherapy units and decided to adopt this neonatal unit.
With the support of the Tandarust Bharat Foundation, Mumbai, the club has set up a water filter at the Bal Kalyan Nagari Children’s Home in Mankhurd, which has over 60 children.
The club conducted a cancer detection camp for the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) bus drivers and conductors, in association with the Cancer Patients Aids Association, a non-profit from Mumbai. Over 100 individuals were screened at the BEST Shivaji Nagar bus depot at Govandi.