THE REAL LIFE PADMAN – ANURAG CHAUHAN
Menstruation comes with innumerable taboos in India, despite preventing thousands of deaths women are victims of the taboos. A woman cannot sleep on the bed, she cannot sleep inside the house hence forced to sleep outside the house or even in the animal shelter at times, she cannot work in the kitchen and not even touch few articles, they cannot go to the temple and worship because during this period women are considered to be impure and some people even treat them as untouchable. In this era it’s shocking but the fact is, it is still practiced in various parts of our country.
Humans For Humanity is a non profit, voluntary organisation run by a 25 year old social worker, Anurag Chauhan who is working on a project called WASH – Women Sanitation Hygiene from 2015. The organisation provides free sanitary napkins to women, they are either handmade cotton napkins or prepared by supporting NGOs in India. They also provide workshops by doctors, nutritionists and research scholars who explain to the women and girls the biological reason of menstruation, kind of nutrition required, remedies to avoid pain/ cramps, hormonal changes in the body, discuss various stages of menstruation, personal hygiene, disposal of napkins and other factors to make them aware of the facts. Many people in rural parts of india consider menstruation a dirty process, some think of it as a disease, all of this happens due to lack of awareness and age old taboos. The team members also give counselling to parents, young girls and even women in the bracket of menopause.
The volunteers of the organisation provide a training program under which these women from slums, villages, govt. schools & colleges are taught how to make their own napkin rather than using ash, sand, leaves, jute bags, dirty cloth, which leads to cervical cancer, many other illnesses/ diseases and untimely death. Sanitary napkin making workshop helps them in a big way as most of the women in the slums and rural areas cannot afford buying sanitary napkins. Along with WASH the organisation also runs a project simultaneously – “Breaking The Bloody Taboo” to crush age old taboos about menstruation, which leads to the mistreatment towards women in many rural and urban areas. Under the Project WASH awareness is not just for the women and girls but also for men of the families. Anurag saw that he as a man went and spoke to men about menstruation, men told him they had no idea about the danger the women are subjected to as nobody ever told them about it. He believes, when men will be also educated, it will then remove the taboo around menstruation. This shame associated with menstruation has lead to poor menstrual hygiene and care causing various health problems in women. Women feel ashamed to come out and speak about their health issues which are related to their reproduction organs as well as menstrual problems. Not just the young girls but even the elderly women do not know how to use a sanitary pad. Project WASH provides raw material to the women in slums & villages to teach them how to make sanitary pads using cloth at home. During the lockdown the work of Humans for Humanity has come as a great help to the women who have been taught how to make sanitary napkins at home as they don’t have to go out and buy them but they can make hygienic sanitary pads themselves at home. They have reached a new level of empowerment as they are not dependent on the outside world to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. Humans for Humanity not just teaches women about menstrual hygienic but also how having nutritious food which should have iron is important for women to keep healthy as huge number of women in India suffer from anaemia which is caused by lack of iron. Anurag is an example how youth of India are breaking the stereotype associated with menstrual hygiene by touching lives of those who need awareness and education by honesty, dedication and a will do bring a positive change.
Written by – Sonali Shetty
The WASH Project –