For several communities in India, menstruation is an excuse to treat women as `untouchables’ for seven days a month, and denied the right to participate in social customs. But women in the backward Purulia district of West Bengal have managed to destroy taboos related to the monthly cycle through a project that aims at providing better sanitation and hygiene. It also allows some women to earn money.
[...] “We belong to poor families. With low water levels in this district, income from farming is minimal. We could not afford the Rs 80-100 needed for napkins. Also, our parents would have found the whole idea indecent, decadent,” [Kalpana Kuiri, 31] says.
[...] Then last year in June , the District Rural Development Cell (DRDC) and UNICEF jointly mooted a proposal for a sanitary napkin production centre at Purulia to provide cheap sterilised napkins and advocacy on personal hygiene. [...] “I started making about Rs 1,500 a month from my work at the centre. The other women then started asking me how they could join in. Even their husbands became interested. They were willing to overlook the `menstruation’ aspect for the income,” recalls Mita Das, 31, of Chapuri village, one of the first to join the project. The sanitary napkin production centre revolutionised the social perception of personal hygiene in the district.
[...] Each month, the 30 women work on the two sterilisation machines to produce about 900 sanitary napkin packets. Besides retailing, the centre supplies napkins for hospitals, schools and SHGs.
[...] The women, who were trained in Chennai, have not limited themselves to sanitary napkins. As a step ahead, they have now started production of District Dai Kits (DDK) for hospitals and midwives.
Source: Ajitha Menon, Women’s Feature Service / The Hindu Business Line, 05 Dec 2008