On In People & Politics

This Indian Activist Is Bringing A Revolutionary Change In The Lives Of Rural Women 

Maya Vishwakarma, till the age of 26 used cloth for her menstrual cycle. It led to many infections that are still suffered by her sometimes. She’s not the only one though. Many girls have been through similar things. Some only suffer from infections, but others might end up suffering from cancer. Maya is an Indian activist, founder of Sukarma Foundation and a researcher at the University of California. Read on to find what revolution she is bringing for the betterment of rural women in India.

Let's begin with the basics.

Taboos and stigmas

Having gone through the hazard of using unsanitized materials for her periods, Maya is aware of the problems and social stigma that a young girl goes through. It also gave her the courage to do something about it so that the future generations don’t have to face the same challenges.

The shocking statistics

According to UNICEF, India’s Millennium Development Goals called for a reduction in India’s maternal mortality rate to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. According to the World Bank though, that number still looms at 174.Every year, Cervical cancer kills around 72,000 women in India, says the May 2013 report by Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition.Both of these consequences are attributed to poor sanitary and hygiene practices. Better provisions need to be provided for better care.

The problem

According to a study by A.C. Nielson and Plan India, only 12 percent of India's 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins. Hygiene practices are important because it can increase the susceptibility of contracting Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI's), associated cancers and also death at childbirth. Most of the adolescent girls in villages use rags, old clothes and in extreme circumstances, newspapers, husks and dried leaves during periods. This increases their vulnerability to RTI’s which severely contribute to female morbidity.Young girls also typically miss five days of school each month, leading to disturbance in their academy. Around 23 percent of these young girls even drop out of school after the onset of their menstrual cycles.

The plan

Maya’s plan is to set up a manufacturing facility by the name of "Shri", for the production of biodegradable sanitary napkins at affordable prices. The facility would be based in Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh (India). Small sanitary napkin-making machine costs around three lakhs. This machine is not only affordable and consumes less power, but also manufactures an eco-friendly product. Larger companies use machinery that cost 75 lakhs to Rs 2.5 lakhs produce non-degradable sanitary napkins that contain toxic traces of plastic.A team of operators will also be required. The training will take up to 3 hours, and they would be able to manufacture up to 120 napkins per hour. The market is large and always expanding, which make it affordable for the poor.This project also brings employment for hundreds of unemployed/unskilled women.

The impact

The local production and supply of napkins have progressed because of the invention of the mini machine. Better hygiene and health standards of women have been accomplished since then.- Around 2.5 million women have switched from using rags and old cloths to sanitary napkins.- It has also provided a means of livelihood to many poor women.- The usage of sanitary napkins, along with increased awareness reduces the incidence of women treated as social outcasts during their menstrual cycle. Their sense of dignity would improve along with their productivity.

Invention of the mini machine, by The Pad Man.

Arunachalam Muruganantham, also known as Pad Man, has been accorded the recognition as the inventor of this machine in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2014. Along with him, people like Narendra Modi, Arundhati Roy, Barack Obama, Serena Williams, Beyonce, etc. were also mentioned.In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri - the highest civilian award, by the Government of India. He has also shared his work with Bill Gates.

The cost

A single unit of this machine has seven small parts namely De-Fiberation Machine, Soft Touch Sealing Machine, Belt Napkin Making Machine, Pneumatic Core Forming Machine, Pneumatic Core Dies and UV Treat Unit. The cost of running a single unit is approximately 2.5 lacs. Transportation, Installation Conveyance and Training Cost are around Forty thousand only.In the production of Sanitary Napkin, Core absorbing material, Top layer sheet, Back layer sheet, Release paper and Gum are needed. All these costs around 75,000 for one month’s quantity and with the employment of 6 unskilled women which result in the production of approximately 50,000 Sanitary Napkins.Human Resources cost and unit running comes up to Rs 50,000. In Rs 1.25 lac of operating expenditure, 50,000 napkins are produced per unit per month.One sanitary pad is just for Rs 2.50 on a No Profit, No Loss Basis. That’s Rs 10 monthly for a woman. If a lady uses four napkins in a month, one such unit can reach almost 12,500 women. 

How can you help?

Make a contribution via Crowdera to help this campaign or help spread the word about this initiative. A little help can go a long way and change so many lives. The campaign money will be used for machinery, operating expenses for six months, and raw materials. Help in starting a revolution.

Watch the video below to get a better idea about the campaign.