Women’s hygiene in India has always been a topic that has courted a lot of controversy and hearsay. Much has been assumed regarding the sanitary pad usage in rural India. Even today, the general perception is that, sanitary napkins are not available or affordable by rural women and girls. Menstruation still remains a taboo in most of the country, and nearly half the country’s women don’t practice hygienic methods of protection during periods.
This scenario has changed in the past few years with the Government of India encouraging responsible businesses taking active initiative in spreading awareness about the dire need for having access to efficient hygiene practices in rural areas. Basic access to fresh water and continuous availability of clean toilets will help in empowering women to ensure their overall well-being during menstruation or otherwise.
As part of the corporate social responsibility, Vedanta Cairn Oil and Gas – an oil exploration company working in Barmer – launched the initiative Resham, under which women and self-help groups produce low-cost and high-quality sanitary napkins. A number of village women have joined Rajjo Devi to usher in a change. These women produce and sell sanitary pads under the brand name ‘Resham’.
In August and November of year 2014, Cairn in partnership with CARE India set-up two Sanitary Napkin Production units in Barmer District – one in Mundo ki Dhani– (close to Mangala Processing Terminal) and the other in Dhandalwas (close to Raageswari Gas Terminal). Wood pulp, purchased from Coimbatore through orders, is used to produce cheaper sanitary napkins that are on par with other pads in quality. Each pack consisting of two napkins is sold at Rs 5. Ten-member self-help groups have been trained to manufacture, package, market and sell napkins.
Each of the manufacturing units is operated by a local women’s self help group, who have been trained on the machinery and the process. Care India has also worked with both the groups in the development of their business plans. Branded as RESHAM sanitary napkins, the product is being marketed in local Girls’ High Schools, Girls’ Hostels, Anganwadi centers, PHC/CHC and CIL supported Mobile Medical Vans.
The project was initiated looking at the poor health and education status of women in the district. Vedanta Cairn’s research found that poor indices regarding childbirth, ANC & PNC was due to the lack of awareness and the absence of information regarding reproductive health. The purpose of this project is to strengthen and promote access to use of hygiene products for better menstrual hygiene. Reduce the issue of poor menstrual hygiene as it is linked to high rates of cervical cancer in India. This initiative is a combination of health and livelihoods interventions viz helping the women from vulnerable communities not only to improve their economic status but also improve health status as well.
At present a single woman can earn upto Rs 50 per day and an average daily production of 750 sanitary pads per day and besides generating awareness on importance of better menstruation hygiene management among adolescent girls and women.