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Embracing Womanhood with Pratishtha Kholi

Many women would recall the experience of transitioning from using an old ragged piece cloth to a sanitary napkin. With increased availability and awareness, use of safe menstrual absorbents has gone up substantially. Yet many adolescent girls and women, particularly from the rural areas, continue to use a dirty piece of cloth, washed and used again. Hidden from the common eyes, they are kept in dark, sometimes used by others as well without knowing they could be transmitters for harmful bacteria.

Cultural taboos that prohibit girls and women from everyday activities, including cooking or washing dishes, during menstruation also contribute to a widespread belief that periods are unclean. Misinformation and lack of knowledge about the reproductive system in general compounds the problem. As a result, many girls scramble to catch up at school every month, impeding educational outcomes, increasing the likelihood of school drop-out, and compromising with their future prospects – impacts that in turn, diminish the potential of a whole generation.

FINISH Society is working in partnership with NSE Foundation in Nandurbar block on Creating Enablers of ODF Sustainability, one aspect of which is to raise awareness about the need for adequate and sustainable menstrual hygiene management facilities for adolescent girls, in schools and beyond, and to advocate for breaking taboos and stigma around menstruation.

Period poverty encompasses a wide range of factors that make menstruation a nightmare for the poor, including a lack of access to affordable and quality sanitary products, inadequate spaces/facilities to manage their menstruation, lack of information and stigma. The necessary infrastructures does not only mean a safe, clean and comfortable toilet, with adequate supply of water but also the provision of a dedicated waste basket for disposal of sanitary product.

FINISH Society is promoting the concept of developing dignity room, a designated clean & functional toilet known as “Pratishtha Kholi- Dignity Room” by liaising with the local government and communities. The dignity room is supposed to have:

  • A bucket filled with water
  • A mug
  • Soap hanged in a mesh bag inside the toilet
  • Paper cut outs hung on a metal string to wrap used pad
  • A hook with a bag to keep new pad while changing and cleaning
  • A dustbin (Pink color especially for MHM waste)
  • Incinerator to dispose-off used pads safely
  • Poster on disposal of sanitary waste inside on one of the walls.

Vijay Gavit, a Cluster Coordinator of FINISH Society while working in Shirwade GP, 18 Kms from Nandurbar notices several challenges related to MHM. The pads used by girls were thrown out in open, which the dogs would tear apart, the cloths used during periods were not dried under sun, women/girls who do not have toilet facility struggle to manage menstruation.

When this was discussed with Gram sevak of Shirwade, she readily agreed on providing the old Anganwadi building to be transformed into the dignity room. The adolescent girls took charge and cleaned the space while PRI and GP members provided with electrical connections for installing incinerator. Incinerator was available with GP for almost a year but never installed. Youths including boys and girls took the initiative of sketching IEC posters on menstrual health.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day (8th March’2022), around 50 women from Shirwade were introduced to their very own dignity room for safe menstrual hygiene management

The dignity room was inaugurated by adolescent girls from the village who have recently hit puberty on Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28th May 2022 with the presence of 80 women/adolescent girls who were demonstrated the use of incinerator and pads were distributed. A register is kept in the dignity room to note the number of pads being disposed-off in the incinerator.

Three champion girls came forward to look after the functioning of Dignity room, Anjan Valvi, Sapna Valvi and Pratiksha Vasave.

“The concept of dignity room was new to us, when Vijay told us about dignity room at Shrirampur village, we decided to develop one in our village as well. While I was working in the previous GP allocated to me I was unaware about the machine and its use, but with FINISH’s guidance we have now installed it in our dignity room and is being used by girls to ensure safe menstruation by the same girls who used to be shy for even bringing up this topic, this makes me very happy!

  • Manisha Jhulal Mali, Gram Sevika, Shirwade”

“Earlier I could not even talk about periods at home, now this room is being used by us where we meet, chat and support each other to understand menstruation. We are sure that more and more girls will get benefitted from our dignity room in future

  • Anjan Valvi, an adolescent girl from Shirwade”