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Karnataka’s SHGs help women to ‘Relax’ and ‘Live Free’

The popularity of sanitary napkins is much more among urban women than their rural counterparts.

WOMEN in villages have been traditionally using rags, ash and other absorbent materials during their monthly menstrual cycle. But in few districts of Karnataka, some women have been trying to bring about a change by ensuring that these women get access to sanitary napkins.

Under its Rural Innovation Fund, NABARD has monetarily assisted NGOs in at least five districts to train one self help group (SHG) to manufacture sanitary napkins catering to village women and adolescent girls.

The project serves dual purposes of enabling women maintain better hygiene and health during menstrual cycles thereby preventing reproductive infections and making it an income generation activity for SHGs. The project has supported agencies in Mysore, Bellary, Dharwad, Gulbarga and Dakshina Kannada.

Cauvery Mata Trust in Mysore, which was the first to receive NABARD funding of Rs 4.5 lakh, began its operations in January last year. The trust trained 20 village women but the project currently is run by nine women working full time and five working part time. 

The raise in the number of napkins – which goes by the name of Relax – manufactured per month, itself indicates the difference the project has attempted to make. From 3,000-9,000 pads every month, the women now make at least 13,500 pads, revealed P Saldanha of the Trust. There has been a 20 per cent improvement in awareness and usage

It sells the pads to a hospital run by Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and to 13 women from SHGs, who in turn sell to other women. “We give the packs to SHGs at Rs 9, when the actual cost for a pack of five napkins is Rs 10,” he explains. However, the biggest challenge the trust faced is to teach women how to dispose of the napkins after use. “We tell them to burn it after use. Although the napkins are degradable, it takes time,” he said.  

SNEARDS, an NGO, in Bellary, which was the second district to receive NABARD funds after Mysore, has also seen improvement in the usage of their low-cost pads since the production began in December, last year. In fact, the Onake Obavva Mahila Sophia SHG has even managed to install two sanitary napkin vending machines in Gadgi Kallamma women’s college and the Hadagali taluk panchayat training centre four months ago.

The SHG, which manufactures Live Free napkins from wood pulp and cotton base, is located in Uttangi village. Since many women in the taluk are not accustomed to wearing underwear, the napkins are made with in-built belt, so that women can wear it even without panties, said Prakash AD, project director, SNEARDS.  

The reason for using wood pulp was because the absorption was much better than cotton. From not having been able to sell even 1000 packs in a month, the group’s monthly production is 1500-2000 napkins. They sell a pack of 10 napkins for Rs 25 but slash Rs 5 for local women.

Till now, they had sold 40,000 packs. Hallamma, a member of SHG, said that since December they have been supplying the napkins to all girls’ ho

Women from SHG making sanitary napkin

stels and even to various hospitals in the district. A feather in the group’s cap was when one SHG supported by Jindal Foundation saw their work and replicated the model in their area.

(Published in Deccan Herald)

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