New Delhi: With just one rupee-a day as voluntary contribution, an initiative is helping young girls in Nawada district of Bihar speak up about their menstrual needs and set up a sanitary pads bank.
They collect Rs 1 per day collected from each girl is used to buy sanitary pads for themselves and other girls who may not have the means to make the purchase. The girls decided to come together to assist each other when they saw how their individual menstrual needs were often not met due to a lack of money.
On International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), they share how they were inspired to act by "Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon", a trans-media edutainment initiative launched by the Population Foundation of India to address issues of family planning, early marriage, unplanned or early pregnancies, domestic violence and adolescent reproductive and sexual health.
Youth Leader Anu Kumari from Amawa village said: "To help someone who doesn't have money, we deposit one rupee every day. That means each girl raises Rs 30 in a month. We buy the sanitary pads and distribute it among poor girls, who cannot afford to buy them, in order to protect their menstrual health."
Dr. Srinath Prashad, Ex-Civil Surgeon-Nawada shares his perspective: "The girls were earlier unable to speak up for themselves. They were unaware of the physical changes happening in their bodies. They didn't know about sanitary pads but today they have started a bank of sanitary pads. You can imagine the extent of influence the show has had, for these girls to confidently say "I can achieve anything".
These girls also conduct dialogues about critical but so far taboo subjects like contraceptive options. As Mausam Kumari, a 17-year-old Youth Leader from Hardiya says: "Now we talk about family planning too. We visit villages and explain these subjects to women. We tell them about options like Antara injection, Chhaya, Copper T, and condoms."
The girls also came together to demand for youth-friendly health clinics to be set up in existing public health centres. "Authorities hold a public dialogue twice a year and we expressed our wish of having a youth-friendly health clinic so that we can discuss our issues and talk without any fear. Our request was fulfilled and now all the girls in the village go there and use services available in the clinic," adds Mausam.
Slowly, attitudinal changes can be seen amongst the men as well. Bhola Rajvanshi, Ex-Mukhiya from Hardiya added: "I feel our society has changed. Now, there is no difference between girls and boys."
The women watching this change unfold are recognising the shift in the conversation around menstruation. Community member Sangeeta Devi observes, "In the past, we used to suffer silently during menstruation. Our daughters told us about napkins. We felt encouraged. I feel, all these changes were possible only because of that show."
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, said: "I am glad that the show is impacting their lives. That precisely is our goal. Through the inspiring character of Dr. Sneha Mathur, the protagonist of the series, we have initiated difficult but important conversations about sex selection, violence, gender discrimination, safe sanitation, family planning, spacing, child marriage, mental health, drug abuse, nutrition and adolescent health. That these young girls in Bihar have created a bank for sanitary pads and have also succeeded in ensuring the setting up of adolescent friendly health clinics is a matter of great pride for Population Foundation of India."
The creator of the show, noted film and theatre director Feroz Abbas Khan says: "When I wrote the concept for the show seven years ago, I could have never imagined the kind of impact we have seen over these years. I wanted to make a high quality show that was effectively communicating important social issues without being preachy. It makes me so happy that 'Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon' has become an empowering slogan for young, adolescent girls who are now spearheading the change on the ground."
'Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon' revolves around the inspiring journey of Dr. Sneha Mathur, a young doctor, who leaves behind her lucrative career in Mumbai and decides to work in her village. The show focuses on Dr. Sneha's crusade to ensure quality healthcare for all. Under her leadership, village women find their voices through collective action.