In a far-reaching initiative, RC Jamnagar, RID 3060, took up a series of workshops and MHM awareness sessions to root out prevailing superstitions among women on menses and also educate them against the stigma, social and cultural taboos related to menstruation through workshops for ushering in a mindset change.
During one such hygiene session at a government school, the Rotarians found that menstrual woes expressed by students were both serious and trivial. While most of the underprivileged girls lacked basic requirements like undergarments and proper clothing, they were also severely malnourished. When asked why they don’t attend school during menses, “one girl told us that their mothers tell them not to go out during this period as it attracts evil spirits and they may get infested by them,” said MHM Project Chair Raksha Jain.
Superstitions are not class-specific and they are prevalent among urban families too. On International Women’s Day, the club distributed 400 sanitary pads — eco-friendly and reusable pads — to lactating mothers at the Irwin Hospital after an MHM session for both men and women. In another event at Lakhota Lake, educated men from various professions like teachers, lawyers and doctors too posed questions to Dr Ujjwala Sathaye, a gynaecologist, who explained the “need for such sessions to raise awareness among both genders.”
But it was felt that the Rotarians had only won half the battle after breaking the myths and wrong notions, “and we felt we were wanting in giving them a healthy, proper solution as the use of sanitary pads raised some critical questions.” Giving an estimate, he said regular users of sanitary pads in India produce 43.3 crore soiled pads weighing nine lakh tonnes, enough to cover a landfill of 240 hectares in their lifetime. “The real problem is it takes the non-organic elements in the pads 500 years to start decomposing. And the most disturbing aspect was that they contain dioxins which are carcinogenic and can cause harm to vaginal tissues,” said Raksha whose MHM team has now come up with a healthier, cheaper and eco-friendly pads.
Soon the club began to distribute ‘R3’ pads — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — in large scale with its bulk production made possible, thanks to generous help from Swati Shah, wife of RID 3060 DG Anish Shah. “As these pads are eco-friendly, they reduce the waste generated, can be reused safely and are made from recycled cloth making it more economically viable,” said Raksha.
The club has held eight free workshops till now on how to make R3 pads and 2,250 such pads worth ₹1.4 lakh were distributed to the beneficiaries. In nine months till March 20, the R3 programmes had benefitted over 6,000 women in Jamnagar district alone.
“Our programme has reached countries like Kenya and this is just the beginning as we have big goals in the future. This project would not have been possible without the hard work and generous contributions of our Anns,” she said. While paying attention to menstrual hygiene, “we are also emphasising on the right choice and the need to address the issue holistically by reducing the waste which also affects our health and adopting an eco-friendly approach,” she adds.