Art auctions to fund menstrual health awareness projects

Three out of ten paintings of Rtn B Dakshayani were sold at an exhibition in Kingston, UK, and she donated one of her paintings to the Rotary Passport Club of RID 1130, UK, on a request from its president Sujay Paul. “He is a dynamic Rotarian from Mizoram and is very popular in London. He will be auctioning the painting and will use the proceeds for a service project through the club,” says Daksha, a Rotarian for 21 years with RC Meenambakkam, RID 3232, and a beneficiary of Rotary’s Youth Exchange programme 30 years ago.

B Dakshayani, Director - Fundraising, Sharmila Natarajan, President, RAG - Menstrual Health and Hygiene; and PDG Tony Sharma, RID 1130, at the exhibition in Kingston, UK.
B Dakshayani, Director – Fundraising, Sharmila Natarajan, President, RAG – Menstrual Health and Hygiene; and PDG Tony Sharma, RID 1130, at the exhibition in Kingston, UK.

Presently she is the director for Fundraising for the Rotary Action Group for Menstrual Health and Hygiene (RAG-MHH) which was formed last year with Sharmila Nagarajan of RC Tower Heights, London, as its president, Vidhya Srini (RC Chennai Temple City) as vice-president and Denise Kilschan (RC Ibiza, Spain) as its secretary.

In countries like the US, UK and Europe, people are surprised to learn that there are women in several countries who cannot afford sanitary napkins.

The group is open to Rotarians across the world and aims to spread awareness among developed nations about ‘period poverty’. “In countries like the US, UK and Europe, people are surprised to learn that there are women in several countries who cannot afford sanitary napkins. As a result, in some villages in India, women are forced into isolation on the outskirts during their menstrual cycle,” says Daksha. “Our RAG is keen to give ease and comfort to all women across the world and wants to educate them about menstrual hygiene and availability of various options such as cloth pads and menstrual cups. We are working on extending these conversations with men as well so that better understanding may lead to healthier relationships. We need funds to help adolescent girls and young women with MHH resources,” she adds.

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As director for fundraising, she came up with the idea of an exhibition of her paintings to raise funds for the RAG. “I thought I will dig into my own talent,” says Daksha who, having done her masters in fine arts, earned her inter-disciplinary doctorate in labour and history of fine arts. She had then presented a proposal to the government for a museum dedicated to the contributions made by indentured labourers who migrated from India to lay railroads in South Africa in the 1860s. “I went to Johannesburg and Durban and traced five generations of a diaspora family. They were not even aware of the origin of their great grandfathers.”

After a 15-year stint as manufacturer and exporter of BCG vaccines, Daksha decided to slow down thanks to the Covid lockdown, and pursue what she loved the most, “along with Rotary, which is drawing and painting.”

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In June this year she organised a virtual exhibition of paintings to raise funds for Polio. The event was titled ‘Directors’ Cut’ as it was presided over by PRIDs Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi, and RIDs A S Venkatesh and Mahesh Kotbagi. Along with her paintings, the work of four other reputed artists were included. “We sold six paintings. PRID Kamal Sanghvi and Dr Ameeta Kotbagi bought a painting each. We found that people were ready to buy our paintings as a contribution for a cause, and not just because they were art lovers or investors in art,” says Daksha. The event helped to raise ₹3.46 lakh for the Polio Fund.

When she discussed this concept with RAG-MHH president Sharmila, she suggested a trial round for her club, RC Tower Hamlets, of which she is the president. Daksha exhibited ten of her paintings on oil canvas depicting scenes of coastal India at a gallery in Kingston, UK, and also on a virtual platform. Three paintings were sold for £3,000, and 20 per cent of the proceeds was donated to the club to execute MHH-related projects. One painting was donated to the Rotary Passport Club for auction. The exhibition is open till Nov 30 on the virtual platform and two more paintings were sold there, says Daksha.

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Another exhibition is planned in June next year, and “this time it is to raise funds for our RAG. We have about 100 artworks, contributed by reputed and lesser-known artists, in our repertoire. This way we are also promoting their creations while we raise funds for our cause. These artists will contribute a percentage of their sale proceeds to the RAG,” she says.

A fallout from these exhibitions was the formation of the Fellowship of Visual Art Loving Rotarians in RID 3232. “It was inaugurated recently at DGN Ravi Raman’s office and we have about 12 members so far. There might be more Rotarians who pursue painting as a hobby and we want to bring them all together and encourage those who want to donate their artwork for charity events,” smiles Daksha.

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