Health

Cycles in nature, are natural

Sanjana Dixit with the girls from Thayi Mane

Sanjana Dixit with the girls from Thayi Mane   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Sixteen-year old Sanjana seeks to raise awareness on menstrual practices and hygiene in society, especially among the underprivileged

Birthdays, meant to mark the gift of life on the planet, are celebrated in myriad ways often leading into the spectrum of hedonism. For 16-year old Sanjana Dixit, a young altruist and a student of National Public School, her birthday sparked off an inspiration that could be the beginning of one of the most valuable forms of celebration – freedom for her underprivileged compatriots.

It kicked off her campaign on menstruation hygiene that has so far included the distribution of a year’s supply of sanitary napkins as well as a workshop on the subject for underprivileged girls at Thayi Mane, a home for children.

“I chose Thayi Mane, an orphanage, for this campaign because I had been working with them for years. On my birthday, I happened to be touring the home and I went to the washrooms. While they were decently maintained, they raised the question of menstrual hygiene in my mind. When I spoke to my parents about it, they encouraged me to approach the coordinator to inquire,” recalls Sanjana who adds that the culture of social service has been part of her family for generations.

“The coordinator shared that while people come forward to donate books or stationery, few realise the importance of donating something as important as sanitary napkins. I also realised that another aspect that needed to be addressed was the lack of basic knowledge of sanitary napkins or personal hygiene. It then struck me that there are several more organisations like Thayi Mane which require access to sanitary napkins and knowledge on how to use them. They don’t understand the risks of unsafe menstrual hygiene practices.”

She points out that she has heard of girls using everything from leaves to ashes during their periods.

“This was the main motivation for me to begin the campaign. I have been working with different organisations since I was seven. I have also been volunteering at government schools and teaching or just spending time with specially-abled children. I used to do the same at Thayi Mane,” explains Sanjana, who has been tutoring two underprivileged children over the past year.

Her menstrual hygiene campaign began with a plan for a basic structure that she had to fit into her class X board exam schedule and preparation, her basketball games (she is the captain of the under 16 and under 18 school teams) and her music (she is a Trinity grade seven keyboard player).

“I spoke to the organisation to understand how this campaign could be executed. Then I started contacting doctors who could conduct the workshop. I had to coordinate with an organisation which could supply enough napkins for a year (Mythri) while conducting a fundraising campaign for the napkins. I also wanted to make this a social awareness campaign.”

She then conducted an online fundraising campaign, largely through email, with her contacts.

“I sent out emails to my social circles requesting them to, in turn, reach out to their circles. The response was amazing.”

She managed to raise over ₹49,050, with enough money to pay for a year’s supply of napkins which she split into two phases.

“The next set of napkins will come in June. If we still have funds left over, we can look at doing this in another organisation. The fundraising campaign will continue until we can put in place a sustainable system,” she shares.

“I don’t want this to be a one-time thing. I want to try and solve the problem for a few organisations, to begin with.” A few days before the workshop, she had to surmount a major challenge as the organisation which had committed to making 4000 napkins said they would only be able to make 300 or 400 packets before the deadline, leaving them short of over a 1000 napkins.

“My mother and I then visited every store in the neighbourhood to search for similar brands. Luckily we were able to fill the requirement at a reasonable price.”

When the workshop finally happened, Sanjana was happy with the results, especially at the levels of interest shown by the girls.

“In the beginning they were hesitant because they were not sure what to expect. Then they started opening up, asking whether they were allowed to drink milk, eat fruits and vegetables, stay at home or play outside during their menstrual cycles. We were able to clarify their questions and we told them they could do whatever they wanted during this time, but they need to maintain their personal hygiene,” she says. “We also emphasised that this is simply a natural phenomenon which they do not need to be ashamed of and it is not something they need to worry about.”

The workshop covered different aspects of personal care such as basic personal hygiene, the use and disposal of sanitary and napkins. Sanjana also gave out hygiene kits containing basic personal care items such as a toothbrushes, earbuds, Dettol and hand sanitisers along with two sanitary napkins as part of the workshop, in collaboration with another organisation.

“The girls were happy with this and they wanted us to come back. They also shared that they found the session deeply informative. When I interacted further, I found that they had now begun to understand a lot more about what happens in the body and how they must take care of themselves.”

She plans to host a follow-up session once the second batch of napkins arrives. “Now that I am on summer vacation, I am working on a more structured plan, looking at doing this in more organisations. During my board exams I also received emails requesting collaborations and offering support. In the next months, I plan to raise money to sponsor one lakh sanitary napkins. I have already appointed area coordinators from my friend circle so we can expand our base,” she adds.

“At the same time, we want to work on it gradually so we don’t compromise on quality.”

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 6:36:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/cycles-in-nature-are-natural/article23657827.ece

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