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National

His mission is menstrual hygiene of migrant women

July 11, 2020 06:45 AM

COURTESY HT JULY 11

His mission is menstrual hygiene of migrant women

Natasha Rego

letters@hindustantimes.com

Mumbai : Amid the migrant crisis, the one thing Kiran Soans thought about was whether the women, who were undertaking the long and arduous journey back home on road, had any access to sanitary hygiene products. Even for those who stayed back in the cities of work, the absence of income would have meant reduced access to sanitary napkins.

“So we started looking for someone who could provide sanitary napkins,” said Bengaluru-based Soans (44) who heads an event management company called Goldrush Entertainment. “And it struck us, why not just make them ourselves? We could employ women daily wage earners, teach them how to make the pads, and then hand the pads out free.” At the beginning of the lockdown Soans launched an initiative called World Hunger Warriors. His aim was to connect people in his network who wanted to donate funds, food, cooking equipment, space, ingredients, fuel or labour.

He has a network of 50 apartment kitchens and four commercial kitchens making the food and over 100 volunteers hand out cooked meals to migrant workers and other underprivileged people in Bengaluru. It was through this network that he heard of the urgent need for sanitary pads.

Searching for companies that manufactured reusable pads, he stumbled upon Stonesoup. He didn’t want to buy their product, but could they help him figure out how he could make his own?

Stonesoup agreed to help. The design the two settled on was a durable, washable waterproof jacket, to be provided by the company; the women would make the cotton cloth inserts. Each jacket would be handed out with a set of five inserts. The whole thing could be washed, sunned and reused multiple times. “We settled on this design because the washable inserts look like regular cloth napkins and can be hung out to dry in the sun without stigma attached,” Soans said.

WHW works with 50 women in Yelahanka and Sarjapur, most of whom previously worked on construction sites. Soans sources korra cotton from local traders and the women, with a little training, have begun production. They call the pads Shaktipack.

It’s a slow process, since quality checks take time, but since the end of April, the women have made 200 Shaktipack pads; 55 were distributed on July 1. “We use our production units in Dindigul for the leakproof jackets, because those require machines to put together,” says Smita Kulkarni, co-founder of Stonesoup.

Sheela Manu, 26, a construction site labourer who has used the pad, said she prefers them to the low-cost disposable ones she had been using.

“These are more comfortable,” she added.

WHW has started a fundraising campaign on crowd-sourcing website, Ketto.org, called ‘ShaktiPack4Women’ to raise money that would enable them to employ 500 women and make over 5,000 sanitary. “The women say the pads are comfortable and give them security. We hope the campaign works out and we find a way to continue this into the future,” Soans said.

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