17 August 2018
Meeting a real life `pad man’ in Jaipur and helping women in India gain better access to sanitary pads
An update on community projects being funded or run in India by India Unbound and Remarkable East, from company founder Lincoln Harris
When we were in Jaipur in April we met with an NGO called Naya Sawera which has several projects in the city – one is a home for HIV affected kids and another is a ‘sanitary pad bank’ operating in a slum in Jaipur.
Currently Naya Sawera sources sanitary pads in bulk and stocks them in ‘banks’ in different locations in the slum where women can easily get to. Many women in the slum cannot afford to purchase pads so therefore don’t have access to any, and while reusable cloth pads are in use, women are not always able to wash and dry them properly. The pad bank therefore is crucial to women’s health in this slum. As well as providing access to pads for women, Naya Sawera are also passionately advocating for change in terms of the way women are treated during menstruation and the dialogue around women’s health issues. They are advocating for women so that the shame and stigma that is placed on women each month is removed. This work is crucial and we were so moved by the way they are tackling the dialogue in their community.
The problem Naya Sawera faces is sourcing enough pads – currently they need to buy the pads, and given limited funds they must limit the number of pads they give out.
Now as many of you know my wife Madelene turned 40 this year and I had it in mind to do something meaningful and lasting as a gift. On meeting with Naya Sawera I knew I had found the right thing – to purchase a pad making machine as her `birthday gift’ which would allow Naya Sawera to produce not only enough for their own current pad banks, but potentially far beyond that, with the capacity to start more banks, as well as sell them in the open market – thereby providing employment for several women operating the machine in the slum and generating revenue for Naya Sawera. Importantly, it will allow them to start reaching into the rural areas around Jaipur, where the need is actually far greater: as many as 60% of women in rural India do not have access to proper sanitary products (whether disposal or reusable). Beyond the obvious health implication of this, it also impacts on education, with as many as 23% of girls dropping out of school when they start to menstruate. Dropping out of school drives early child marriage and all but guarantees that they will not achieve employment.
India is a big place and rural women face many health challenges. The pad machine is a drop in the ocean but I know it will genuinely impact on the lives of many women in this area. The challenges, issues and stigma that Indian women face around menstruation has recently been brought into focus by Bollywood movies such as `Padman’.
The end result is we have now purchased a machine that will be able to produce as many as 16,000 sanitary pads per month for as little as 1 rupee per pad. That should be enough for around 2,500 women each month. The machine we purchased was far more costly than I initially thought, but as we looked into it we realised it would be worth spending more to get a better machine – one which can produce lower cost pads that are mostly biodegradable.
India has given us many things (a livelihood, our family!) and we are always looking to give something back, with the help of our friends and family. We are incredibly grateful for everyone’s willingness and enthusiasm to contribute to the projects what we are so passionate about.
Through the process of this project and deciding which machine to buy, we have once again asked friends, family, our local supporters and contributors, and our Indian partners to support our community work and there have been many that have contributed – small and large amounts – with time and love – and all so open-heartedly and generously. We are very grateful for this support and assistance. Issues such as education and women’s health are very important to us and we thank you for sharing our passion in these endeavours. Once again, we could not have achieved this without everyone – thank you.
Specifically we would like the following people and groups who donated funds to make this possible:
Lisa Abbott, Natalene Muscat, Mel Myres, Tobey Henry, Emmanuel Cumbo, Kitta Good, Jill Flockhart, Gretta Harris, Mim Hayes, Amanda Pope, Cathy Murphy, Rhan Harris, Jess Taylor, Deb Kilsby, Jenni Harris, Periplus Travel & the Kumar family, the Phillips family.
Again, thank you.
Here’s a photo of Madelene with Mamta Verma, the lady who runs one of the pad banks in Jaipur. And in case you are wondering – she thought it was a fabulous 40th birthday present!
This week, we are thrilled to see the pad machine delivered and in action at Naya Sawera, all coinciding with Independence Day in India. We hope this machine and the work of Naya Sawera gives women and girls their independence, better health and better education. We look forward to updates from Naya Sawera and can’t wait to get back to see the machine in action ourselves next time we are in Jaipur.
And here are some pictures of the machine,
With love and gratitude,
If you’d like to read more about India Unbound’s other community projects – you can visit our Community Engagement page
If you’d like to visit to Naya Sawera in Jaipur during a tour of North India – ask us about including a visit to the NGO when we design you a custom made private tour of Rajasthan. Jaipur in Rajasthan is one of our favourite cities to visit and we often include several days at this great destination – also known as the pink city of Rajasthan. What are the top things to see & do in Jaipur? Read our Jaipur city blog to find out.