“My house help recently called me and asked for monetary help. Her daughter was on her period and they’d gone back to using cloth as pads were a luxury, so I started sending her money for pads immediately.
But after that call, I realised she couldn’t be the only one using cloth pads. I went to the nearby slum and asked around– unfortunately, I was right. The women told me, ‘We don’t even have money to eat, so we’re going back to cloth.’
Their plight was distressing. I withdrew my provident fund and bought a huge stock of pads, which I began distributing in slums around the city. Alongside, I even shared about it on social media– in 3 days, I raised Rs 45,000 from my personal contacts, and another 18,000 from a fundraiser. To my surprise, most of the donors were men!
But on the other hand, when I posted about it, my female friends said,‘You’re doing this for clout.’ And when I asked for volunteers, no one except for my fiancé and 2 guy friends turned up. But I was determined to help. Last year, my house help’s sister passed away due to an infection she’d developed after using cloth– I couldn’t let it happen again.
Armed with funds and 100s of packets, we set out, going from door to door. Most women hesitated taking a pad from a boy, so I’d go in alone and when I explained the health benefits, they’d shyly accept and say, ‘Thank you Didi!’
But some women blatantly said no; that they’re better off with cloth. And at one of the slums, a man shooed me away. He said, ‘Yeh sab ghatiya kaam mat kariye.’ (1)He was well built, and since I was alone, I ran away. But then an old lady came out and said, ‘Please don’t mind him. We need these pads.’ So the ladies lined up at her house and finally I distributed the pads.
Another time, a random man asked me, ‘I need some for my wife and daughter.’ He was the only man there comfortable with holding a pad– it made my day!
I wanted to reach more people, so that we could give out more pads. But when I asked a local newspaper if they’d cover my story, the editor said, ‘Distribute rations, then we’ll cover you.’ It baffled me! If even the educated refuse to talk about menstruation, then how are we ever going to break the taboo? I just told him, ‘Sorry. I’m not changing that.’
It’s been 2 months now, and I’ve finally managed to tie up with a local manufacturer and I’m even trying to raise more funds. But the problem is more deep-rooted than we can imagine. Distributing lakhs of pads won’t make any difference, unless we actually start talking about menstrual hygiene– that’s the need of the hour. Period.”
Reproduced from Humans of Bombay.
- Means “Do not do such gross things”