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How A Dehradun NGO Is Changing Perceptions About Sustainable Menstruation

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Humans for Humanity is a Dehradun based NGO and through its pilot project WASH which is an acronym of ‘Women Sanitation Hygiene’ is informing people about menstruation and the importance of menstrual hygiene, not only spreading the word but educating people on how to make sustainable sanitary napkins kits and
earn money.

The NGO Humans for Humanity was founded in 2014 and is a brainchild of Anurag Chauhan, an Indian social worker who hails from Dehradun and has started
working towards menstrual health as well providing free sanitary napkins to women and men in the rural residencies.

The pilot initiative namely WASH is being conducted in several villages, government schools, slums, colleges across India. A shocking data by UNICEF reveals that 71% of adolescent girls remain unaware of menstruation till they start menstruating. The reason being for this could be the lack of awareness and hesitancy of elders
in explaining it to the girls.

Why Is Sustainable Menstruation Crucial?

According to United Nations Environment, we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste annually, in which half of the waste is produced by the use of single
use plastic which incorporates menstrual supplies like pads and tampons even the strings of tampons are produced from plastic.

As per the Plastic Soup Foundation, plastic never decomposes fully. To date around 400 million Indian women account for menstruating, among which 121 million uses commercially produced sanitary napkins which took around 500 years to decompose claims a a study done by Menstrual Health Alliance India and WaterAid India.

Moreover 12 billion sanitary napkins are disposed of in a water stream in a landfill. Its high time to be vocal and encourage about sustainable menstrual hygiene.
One of the initiatives attach to project WASH is ‘sustainable menstruation’ which promotes the usage of environment friendly, biodegradable sanitary napkins for example cloth menstrual pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear.

With the dire climate change situation, we should work towards eco-friendly habits. Coming-of-age sustainable products are biodegradable, reusable, and compostable produce with bamboo fiber, cotton, banana fiber.

Over the past few years various start-ups, have launched sustainable menstrual products which are considered to be a boon in the era of tremendous climate change.
These environment-friendly menstrual products are chemical and plastic-free and are 100 times more comfortable and hygienic as compared to plastic-produced sanitary napkins.

They can be named as green products since its environment friendly, these products are easy to decompose and, reduce the environmental impact and prevent skin rashes and infections cause by plastic-based products and help in promoting good health and well-being in women of our society.

sanitary pads in the market
Representational image.

However, the atrocious usage of the sustainable menstrual products is the lack of awareness related to the negative environmental impact of commercial pads and its sustainable alternatives. To achieve the aforementioned agenda, we should create community-led awareness, majority of women are unaware of the immensity of the negative impact that prevails on our surroundings through the usage of traditional pads.

To enhance their knowledge grassroots campaigns led by NGOs, menstrual products companies are important.

Humans for Humanity is working on by organizing grassroots campaigning, educating women, and conducting workshops on how to make eco-friendly, low-cost pads especially those living in a rural area who are oblivious about the circumstance.

The project WASH of a non-governmental organization, Humans for Humanity headquartered in Dehradun has expanded its reach by covering six states of India which includes Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, and others.

Not only educating rural women on sustainable period practices but the pilot project of Humans for Humanity is generating employment for rural and impoverished
section of our society by training hundreds of women in making bio-degradable cost-effective sanitary pads.

The project WASH has reached and covered 1.5 million rural women in India. The workshops cover all the phases of menstruating women from teenage girl to
women in guidance who are in menopause stage.

These workshops are headed and led by experience doctors to make women aware of the biological reason surfacing the menstruation. As per the data the project WASH due to its immense support to rural women has received support from the Indian author and actress Twinkle Khanna.

Humans for Humanity project WASH is seminal example of grassroots work towards sustainable menstruation in India, and how an NGO led by a youth named Anurag Chauhan is spreading the word on the importance of menstrual hygiene, and to implement sustainable menstruation.

This is just one initiative covered by the NGO but there are many other menstrual-related projects done by this Dehradun-based NGO. For its progressive work Anurag Chauhan founder of Humans for Humanity has received “International Women Empowerment award”,  “International Women’s Day He for She award” and
Karamveer Chakra by United Nations.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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