Desi 'hygiene gyaan' sets women free

Periyapatna-based NGO makes affordable sanitary towels at a mere ` two per piece

Cauvery Matha Trust Executive Director Saldanha making a point at the training for women on the process of making sanitary napkin. DH Photo

For instance, it is beyond doubt that sanitary napkin is one of the most useful inventions of the century that went by. This has come as a boon for today’s urban women, who have been juggling too many roles, realising their innate potential to do so, since last few decades. 

At a time when multinational companies are vying with each other to bring out ultra-modern sanitary napkins and spending crores towards publicity of the same to attract women, here is an NGO in Mysore district which has involved rural women to produce low-cost sanitary napkins named ‘Relax’ that is sold at only ` two per piece.

First initiative

The unit situated at the Kanagal village, 30 km from Periyapatna, that is functioning from January 2010 is the first such unit in the state that produce low cost napkins.

A ten-member team, ostensibly all-women, are involved in making this product stand as fine examples of women empowerment — both in work and in the product they make.

They have also been successful in educating rural women, who are unaware of the unhygienic methods that would cost their lives and health in the long run.

Daily routine

Venkatamma, Deepa, Kalpana, Saraswathi and others who begin their work at 9.30 am bring out around 400 napkins at the end of the day. The simple machines used for the production is operated by them and they also provide demonstration-cum-training to various groups that visit their unit often.

These women have not only gained self confidence but also are able to support their family with the income, and they even save a portion of their salary for better tomorrows.

These women are also trained to be the crusaders against the unhygienic practices which are still prevalent in villages and are happy to say that the women of Kanagal village are being totally educated against the ill-effects of using unhygienic materials during their menstruation period and have switched on to sanitary pads, thanks to the low cost napkins as it is affordable even to the women of lower section.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Pascal Saldanha, Executive Director of an NGO, Cauvery Matha Trust, Kanagal village, Periyapatna in Mysore district said he had chalked out various plans for the empowerment of women in rural areas by involving the members of self help groups. It was at this time he learnt about the unhygienic practices of women, that were claiming several lives. This motivated him to take out research in making low cost napkins, which continued for more than 10 years. He then consulted an expert faculty from Coimbatore and finally came out with a product that was hygienic and also most importantly affordable.

Women empowerment

When he briefed the same to G K Ananthamurthy, AGM, NABARD, he was convinced by the product which involved women empowerment with a cause and supported the trust by providing financial assistance under RIF from NABARD.

A total amount of `  3,97,356 is expended on the project. Out of which an amount of `  3,77,758 is funded by NABARD as grant against total NABARD sanction of ` 4,48,758.
Apart from production and marketing, the unit here is interested in training people and transfer of technology so that each taluk can have a unit of its own which would inturn decrease the mortality rate among women.

Around 20 SHG women were trained at the unit which was inaugurated in January 2010. They were imparted training in handling machinery, napkin production giving more importance on the health and hygiene and sterilisation of the product. While ten women are involved in production every day, others are involved occasionally.

The team also visits local melas and awareness camps were held in nine villages of Mysore, Mandya district involving federations and NGOs. The officials of Health Department of Periyapatna taluk were briefed on the project and have been assured of their support to popularise low cost napkins. There are also plans to improve the production to 1,500 napkins per day gradually.

Teams from Bijapur, Davangere, Nanjangud and others have visited the production unit and have placed orders for napkins and some of them have expressed eagerness to set up their own units.  A unit in Bellary is in its initial stages of production and enquiries are on to set up units in Chamarajanagar and Dharwad.

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