A 16 year old Swede, Greta Thunberg is making waves around the World with a vision for a healthier environment on our planet. And, a 16 year old school girl, Khyati Gupta, back home in our very own country dreams a year back of ‘making a difference’ (through Pinkishe Foundation) in millions of women’s’ lives. More than 300,000,000 women suffer in silence during ‘that time of the month’. Menstrual hygiene is a major concern in India which not many are willing to discuss and hence it continues to be thought of as a ‘bloody curse’ by women.
What could describe this better than these lines by Poet and Author, Lopa Banerjee?
For years, I have breathed in the
dingy hollow of my own blood,
Trembling, gasping, clutching at the skinny edges of myself.
For years, we have cracked open
Praying the whirlpool gets a nobler name, praying it does not strain us,
lapping at the shores of our thighs
we have so much strived to hide.
Today I listen to the deep-throated music of my own blood,
Naked, primal, alive.
I listen to it, watching it return in cycles.
I am sucked into the dense clouds
And wet earth of my being,
I am free, I sing, swirling in
spirals of a woman, menstruating, unabashed.
Well, a lot has been done and is being done in this direction since the birth of Pinkishe Foundation. What started as a dream of a young girl has become a reality with common women from all walks of life joining hands and coming ahead to do voluntary service (no member seeks a salary or compensation in any form). Today the Pinkishe community is 1.5 lakh women strong and still growing. The women of this community have pledged to make a difference in the lives of girls and women by helping them to live respectable and healthy lives.
A major project of Pinkishe is the Padbank which aims to make available sanitary pads to women and girls who otherwise would have used materials like mud, cow dung, saw dust and even natural leaves during their periods. The lack of knowledge as well as low financial conditions is responsible for putting more than 11 crore young girls at health risks such as reproductive tract disorders and even cervical cancer. The sad fact is that many young girls (around 23%) drop out of schools and are deprived of an education because of them having periods.
Under the Padbank Program, members and volunteers of Pinkishe manufacture and distribute sanitary pads free of cost to needy girls and women from over 50 branches all over the country. These branches function either from their homes independence. Padbank has touched more than one lakh girls and women by making their lives better and healthier.
Recently, two villages of Meerut have gone 100% menstrual hygiene compliant, which is a tremendous achievement. ‘A tiny step for womankind but a huge step for Pinkishe and Padbank’. The two villages in the ‘Pinkishe (read pinkish) limelight of achievement’ are Lu Baksar and Shoulda. In the past too, Padbank has supported the cause of Kerala by collecting and sending 1.25 lakh sanitary pads when the area was hit by floods. Cyclone Fani couldn’t deter the volunteers of Padbank from pitching in their support when they sent 6 thousand sanitary pads to the needy women.
And, the lady behind the success of Project Padbank is Pallavi Shrisvastava. The Project would have struggled to find a firmer foot without her relentless efforts. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she is the cornerstone of this project. The Padbank team under the able guidance of Pallavi Shrivastava (National Head of Padbank) is working incessantly to increase awareness about menstrual hygiene management. The team entails Trainers, Padbank leaders and Branch leaders. Pallavi has been strongly supported in her endeavours by Sumita Bandyopadhyay from Assam (Branch leader of Jorhat), Rajrani Sharma (Padbank Leader, Meerut Branch), Minakshi Rana (Branch Leader, Meerut) and Ruhi (Branch Leader, Hisar). With a prayer on their lips and firm determination in their hearts these ladies with their teams have gradually and gently managed to convince and conquer the darkness of unawareness. Their work is distributed very systematically and is efficiently carried out, be it identifying areas that need help, distributing survey forms, analyzing the current situation, adopting a village or area, contacting local governmental authorities, arranging medical camps, installing pad vending machines or even regular follow ups. Sitting in the comfort zone of our homes we may not realize the sweat (and blood) that goes in to make girls and women believe what’s good for them, to draw them out from their ignorance and superstitions. But Pallavi has been there, seen that and done whatever was possible in human capacity with her devoted team to affect a change. At this juncture, it is imperative that you, dear readers, must know... Pallavi’s team has youth volunteers too, from various renowned colleges of Delhi (such as Amity College, Lady Shri Ram College and Khalsa College) who try to reach out through ‘Nukkad Nataks’ etc. to the lesser privileged. So, this noble cause includes the future citizens of one of the world’s fastest growing power which is still developing, and struggling to accept the (biological) fact that ‘Women bleed every month’. Many girls and women of the underprivileged communities have borne witness to the good work being done by the Padbank. It’s always good to join the race to better the cause of humanity. Isn’t it?
“On my part I have taken a pledge that from my pocket money I will buy and donate sanitary pads to one needy girl every month. I believe there is no amount big enough when it comes to a girl’s dignity. If we all lend a hand we can do a lot in this direction,” says Khyati Gupta. With a call for ‘making a difference’ so that every single girl may know what it feels like to have a comfortable period, hassle free and hygienic too, Khyati Gupta with Pinkishe Foundation has forged ahead with ‘I will’ since 2017. Would you also like to join the noble initiative and say “I will”?