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During the times when the world is going through a global health crisis, the ignored and vulnerable tribal communities in Rajasthan have been facing the period poverty – lack of accessibility and affordability. And Spot On! is the solution.
Addressing the three issues which needs an immediate focus because of the CoVID-19 and its spillover effects are:
- MATERIALS: 88% of menstruating women use alternatives such as old fabric, rags, sand, ash, wood shavings, newspapers and hay.
- FACILITIES: In the absence of household toilet, 66% of women manage their menstruation in the open.
- AWARENESS: 70% of mothers consider menstruation dirty
Three step solution proposed are
1. Supporting Self–Help Groups (SHGs)/Entrepreneurs
WHAT: Helping existing SHGs to form sanitary napkin production micro-units by providing them with technologically innovative machines, along with raw materials, maintenance services and access to finance and subsidies.
a) Providing livelihood
b) Building skills
c) Ensuring the quality of sanitary napkins
2. Establishing Supply Points
WHAT: Developing a group of village level entrepreneurs to form the distribution channel for sanitary napkins at a retail level.
a) Effective salesmanship, marketing, and business
b) Ensuing access and distribution of sanitary napkins
3. Creating Awareness
WHAT: Conducting sessions on MHM best practices for women and adolescent girls in their communities.
a) Breaking myths, taboo and social stigma
b) Stimulating demand for sanitary napkins
Uniqueness: Spot On!
Unlike any other player working in this field in India, we are looking at holistic solution for solving period poverty:
2. Distribution Chain
3. Community sensitisation
Sustainability and Scalability
1. We are involving and skilling members from the community only.
2. Leveraging already present governmental system and policies at Panchayat/Community level.
Why now with the pandemic?
- Lack of Materials: Community is remote and thus doesn’t has a direct link with any big market and the small local Bazar doesn’t have the requires resources need to follow proper menstrual hygiene. Even if there was, these community members are from a very poor socio-economic background due to which they are not able to afford costly sanitary pads etc available in the market.
- Lack of Facilities: There are no local community groups or active community health centre where they can go in case of any menstrual health emergencies and CoVID has made it worse.
- Lack of Awareness: There’s lots of misinformation, myths and taboo associated with sanitation and menstrual hygiene practices in the rural tribal belt in which I am currently working and because of the lockdown addressing this issue has become even more difficult.
- Government Inefficiency: Even though sanitation for women has been assigned the high priority by the new government but due to ineffective implementation and corruption, the schemes, policies and system has been a failure to reach the desired results, especially during this corona period.
How does this deliver social, economic and environmental benefits?
Social: The culture of silence around menstruation in India is so complete that 71% of girls report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period. For most, it is a terrifying compounded by taboos that often restrict them from sleeping in the same house, touching food, or even bathing during their period. Also, most girls and women in rural India rely on home-based or other readily available and often unsanitary materials such as old fabric, rags, sand, ash, and hay to manage menstruation. Without any absorbent material, some even end up menstruating on their clothes.
Economic: Apart from tapping the potential local demand by empowering the women from the same community in manufacturing eco-friendly sanitary napkin, keeping girls in school (because of better menstruation management) would help in delaying early marriage and pregnancy. This collectively has the potential to add $100B to India’s GDP over their lifetime.
Environment: Commercially produced napkins are a major environmental hazard. If these non-bio degradable napkins were to become available to all, India would produce 580,000 tons of menstrual waste every year, most of which would end up in water bodies or burned along with other domestic waste.
Concluding, all in all tackling the menstrual health and hygiene issue will generate a triple return on investment with improved outcomes in education, health and environment.