Published: 30th July 2018
This 24-year-old Kerala engineer is campaigning for better menstrual hygiene for Tilonia women
Dhilsha Jubair, an SBI Youth Fellow is raising funds to provide eco friendly and affordable sanitary napkins to the women in Tilonia in Rajasthan
While the country is going gaga over the removal of GST on sanitary napkins, Dhilsha Jubair, an SBI Youth Fellow, who is working with the NGO Barefoot College in Tilonia has a different story to tell us. The tale is of the dismal state of menstrual hygiene and awareness in that tiny hamlet in Ajmer in Rajasthan and the way she is planning to sort it out by setting up machines that produce good quality, eco-friendly and chemical-free sanitary napkins.
Eleven months ago, when Dhilsha from Ponnani, with her limited knowledge in Hindi, stepped foot in Tilonia, she initially thought that she had gone on a time travel to the beginning on the 20th century. She was shocked to see how common it was for children as young as one-year-old to get married. While most of the parents went to the fields to work, their toddlers stayed back home and cooked rotis and did dishes.
But were those the most shocking things? Definitely not! "Most of the women here refused to use sanitary napkins and depended on cloth pads instead. But this wasn't a feasible option because Tilonia faces acute water shortage and hence it is impossible for them to wash these clothes properly," says Dhilsha. But why such a big nay to sanitary napkins, we asked. Dhilsha tells us the reason. "The village has a sanitary napkin production machine that they brought from Arunachalam Muruganantham in 2010. But here, the pads are pressed with barefoot, instead of a machine. Because of this reason, these pads can't be used for too long and so, most of the women gave up on this." Puzzled, Dhilsha decided to try it herself. The results were the same. What appalled her the most was to see women who brought the cheapest whisper napkins and reused them.
Bleed free: Dhilsha with the women in Tilonia
Dhilsha knew that she had to do something about it. But what could one woman with limited funds and little knowledge in the language do? Nevertheless, she wasn't ready to give up. After a couple of months of research and learning Hindi, she travelled to various places on a mission to set up a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit. "Given the condition in Tilonia, a disposable product is the only option. So I thought, why not make it eco-friendly and cheaper too," she says. The quest ended when she found a machine maker in Gwalior. "Finding the raw material was the second issue. The Padman's products were made of cotton and plastic. Most of the eco-friendly pad companies weren't ready to reveal their products too. But finally, I found a manufacturer of green plastic in Indore," she says.
The machine and the products are all set to arrive. The women are much aware of menstrual hygiene and are ready to use the new pads. In order to fund the project, Dhilsha has also begun a crowdfunding campaign in Ketto. "Once the funds are ready, we will start the production soon. The fellowship is ending in 2 months. But I'll stay back here till things turn out well," concludes a hopeful Dhilsha.
Support her campaign here: https://barefootcollege.ketto.