Amaavasya aspires to engage local communities, including men and boys, in a discourse around the stigma of menstruation, raise awareness about menstrual health, and enable women to make informed choices regarding their menstrual practices. Our approach considers the interdependent nature of the causes of menstrual stigma and poor menstrual hygiene. We will identify and support local changemakers in addressing the issue via context-appropriate interventions, thus building capacity in the community for enduring, sustainable impact. We aim to tackle the issue using a twin track approach: an educational initiative co-designed and executed by local changemakers in line with a Human Centered Design (HCD) methodology, and facilitation of access to sustainable menstrual products menstrual cups and reusable pads.
Of the 400 women in the villages within the scope of our project – Asde and Sawargaon – our initiative focuses on the menstruating population, which according to our best estimates is 250 women. We will work directly with 50% of this population – a target group of 125, who will develop a comfortable, safe, environmentally and economically sustainable menstrual practice. Another outcome of this initiative will be to serve as a blueprint for teams and organizations seeking to address similar challenges in comparable contexts.
Within our rural Maharashtrian context, menstruation is defined by stigma and shame, exacerbated by the lack of education on the topic. Periods are seen as impure due to propagated religious beliefs, which allow improper MHM to persist. For many local women, the 6-8 years spent on their period over a lifetime mean bleeding on an uncomfortable, unreliable, and possibly unhygienic piece of cloth. The alternative is to spend a significant portion of their income on disposable pads, which produce over their lifetime a truckload of non-biodegradable menstrual waste. Compromising their dignity at the hands of the stigma they face, economic, infrastructural, cultural, and environmental factors, within our context, they neglect the challenge of menstrual hygiene, which allows for inadequate MHM to persist.
The biggest challenge we have faced has been navigating the intimate nature of menstruation – an issue entrenched in tradition and laden with misinformation and stigma – in a culturally sensitive way. We recognize that our project requires moving this issue out of the private domain and into the public, and that our approach depends on the willingness of young women to be the voice for and face of this conversation in their local communities. We draw confidence about this approach working from the courageous and enthusiastic take-up of this project by a group of 10 local young women, who have already been involved in women’s empowerment and community mobilization initiatives with the college. Our biggest challenge moving forward would be to effectively equip them to break the silence surrounding menstruation.
The prize money would be used to acquire 125 menstrual kits, each containing a menstrual cup, a set of four cloth pads, as well as a pot to sterilize their menstrual cup. Furthermore, the money will be used to fund a women’s health conference at the end of the project, promoting the exchange of ideas, and consolidation of relationships among stakeholders. Moreover, it will allow us to pay an honorarium to members of the local team for their involvement as project designers and workshop facilitators.
- Mandu Reid, Advisor, alumna of WK ‘96
- Raïsa Mirza, Advisor, alumna of PCUWC ‘06
- Heleena Pankhurst, student, team member
- Josephine Henze, student, team member
- Lenja Flütsch, student, team member
- Raquel Pedrosa Gomes, student, team member
- Vanshika Jotsinghani, student, team member
- Lily Steel, student, team member
- Marija Uzunova, Head of Outdoor and Adventure Service Learning at UWC Mahindra College, Faculty Mentor