Project Start Date
Create and distribute eco-friendly, reusable sanitary pads so women and girls in rural areas have access to menstrual health education and support while providing Parijat students with skills training. Create a textile social enterprise for women living in extreme poverty to alleviate food insecurity.
Women and girls living in India are often forced to stop going to school when they start menstruating because they lack access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products and adequate menstrual health education. In addition, women working in the informal economy have experienced severe rates of poverty and food insecurity as a result of COVID-19.
Access to menstrual education and health products in Guwahati, India
Near the city of Guwahati is Parijat Academy, a school for children from underprivileged backgrounds who live in the small town of Pamohi. Founded in 2003 by Uttam Teron and his wife Aimoni Tumung, Parijat has grown from assisting 4 students to nearly 500, and has evolved beyond providing primarily formal school education into areas such as vocational training and menstrual health education and support (e.g. awareness-building on menstrual health, hygiene, sanitation, environmental concerns, etc).
Women and girls in and around Pamohi have minimal access to menstrual awareness and health, which exacerbates dropout rates for girls during puberty. Even if the information was accessible, the issue of menstruation taboo and cost of menstruation products prevent many women and girls from addressing their menstrual needs.
The state of Assam overall has very limited access to menstrual health education and sanitary napkins. Data from the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 report indicates the use of sanitary pads among Indian women in rural areas is an average of 48.5% (and was 57.6% for the country overall).
More often than not, women and girls must use whatever they have available in or around their households during their menstrual cycles, including unwashed and unhygienic cloths that can lead to a variety of health complications.
Parijat creates community success
Seeing the need in their communities, Aimoni and Uttam initiated the sanitary napkin project to create reusable, eco-friendly sanitary napkins for local girls and women. The project also involves training a handful of students and teachers on how to make hygiene kits and menstrual supplies. Each kit contains washable pads that are made of two parts: a leak-proof shield and a super-absorbent liner. The pads dry fast and can be washed easily with very little water. Kits are affordable and customized according to community needs. They often contain a number of additional essentials such as soap, hand towels, hygiene information packets, and face masks, among other items.
Since February of 2020, WECO has provided the funds for 8 students and 4 teachers at Parijat to receive skills training to make and distribute approximately 10,000 sanitary pads to over 2,000 women living in 7 nearby villages.
In January 2022, WECO additionally began an income-generating initiative with a cohort of 30 women weavers living in similarly rural villages near Guwahati. The women make goods such as clothing and linens to sell in the market and each artisan is compensated a monthly salary up front for what she produces. All items are sold by an intermediary working with Parijat who ensures they receive a fair market price for their crafts.