Published: 08th March 2019
IIT Roorkee's on-campus sanitary pad vending machines are striving to break the stereotypes on menstruation. Here's how
HASI for girls initiative is a part of IIT Roorkee Cognizance, which is the annual tech fest that is conducted by the institute
It is indeed a long road ahead for the emancipation of women from the stigma of menstruation but like any other journey, this too needs to begin with the small step of breaking free from the anathema and discomfiture. And IIT Roorkee has definitely taken a step ahead in the right direction. The institute has become the first IIT in the country to install sanitary pad vending machines in their premises, as a part of its social initiative HASI (Health and Sanitation Initiation) for girls. The institute has already set up four vending machines on March 6, 2019, in four prime locations on campus.
The initiative is a part of IIT Roorkee Cognizance, which is the annual tech fest (March 15-16) that is conducted by the institute. "The vending machines are electronically operated and will provide ease to the girls in case of emergency. Menstrual myths have a long history rooted in our lack of understanding of the human body and our habit of deductive reasoning based on symptoms. But our beliefs and practices must change with time and with scientific advancement," said Tushar Bairagi, Overall Coordinator, Cognizance 2019.
Some of the myths our ancestors lived by came to be merely because of the lack of information regarding what exactly was going on inside our bodies. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century that menstruation was known to be related to ovulation. Scientific experiments to test the factor of “impurity” in menstrual blood were not undertaken until the 1920s. No matter where a girl grows up in the world, there’s a very good chance that she will be inundated with endless illusions and misconceptions about menstruation, as no bodily function is more universally misrepresented and ubiquitously tabooed.
"To help decrease this taboo around menstruation in general and women's hygiene we ideated this initiative. We have collaborated with the Rann Foundation, who helped us conduct safe sanitation drives at numerous schools in Uttarakhand. We also provided the students with sanitary napkins. We also collaborated with Streesanman, who manufacture vending machines as well as sanitary napkins, for the installation of the machines inside the campus," added Ruchi Sharma, Executive Marketing member of Cognizance, who is currently pursuing B Tech in Chemical Engineering at IIT Roorkee.
Several studies on this subject have pointed out that in India, 50 per cent of all girls have no knowledge about menstruation and how to manage it when they have their first period. To increase awareness among girls and women, IIT Roorkee also conducted a gathering for setting up the machines. Their programme was called 'Stories of Solidity' where several famous women personalities took part to share their stories of struggles and overcoming obstacles such as the taboo around menstrual hygiene.
The 'Pad Woman' of India, Maya Vishwakarma, said that we should be more aware and educated of something that is a part of our daily life.
Menstruation awareness is gradually increasing in India and people are now starting to talk about this issue. Menstruation, which is considered a taboo, should be included in the education system, and students should also be taught menstrual hygiene management in order to increase awareness
Maya Vishwakarma, 'Pad Woman' of India (Pic: IIT Roorkee)
Ruchi said that the machines have already been made available for use inside the campus and if there are further requirements they would install more vending machines. "We are also planning to set up vending machines in the nearby villages by the end of the next year," she added.