Project Baala seeks to eliminate this tradeoff between food, education and sanitary products that prevails in India. The ultimate goal is to generate a self-sustainable model where all 88% of the women with no sanitary facilities can be positively impacted.
88% menstruating women in India do not use any sanitary products during their period and use alternatives such as pieces of rag, ash, sand and husk. This results in a drop of 31% in productivity levels of working women and almost 1 in every 4 adolescent girls in the country, quits school due to the lack of any sanitary facilities (Nielson Corporation, 2015). These are not mere statistics for me but growing up in India, I have witnessed these problems first hand whilst volunteering and working in urban and rural slums. It is appalling that something that is taken for granted by most of us affects the education and income of nearly half of India’s female population. In addition to proving as a barrier to higher income and education levels, poor menstrual hygiene rooted in years of unawareness, misinformation and taboos substantially increases the risk of reproductive tract infection amongst these women.
Additionally although sanitary waste disposal is a global problem but it is more distinct in India due to poor solid municipal waste management. An estimated 125kg of sanitary waste is generated by a single woman in her menstruating years (Ecofemme, 2016) and with 12% of women in a population of 1.2 billion using sanitary pads, India is facing a serious problem of non- biodegradable waste.
With this in mind, Project Baala was created to provide a two-fold solution to menstrual problems in India:
1. Generating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene via workshops in rural areas.
2. Distribution of 3 reusable sanitary pads for women which can be used up to a year and a half.
This allows to eliminate the recurring costs of buying sanitary pads and the use of unsafe alternatives whilst simultaneously improving the menstrual health practices employed by the women. It also allows to minimize the cost on the environment and reject the myths and taboos associated with menstruation. With generous support from the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund, ~840 women were impacted over the summer of 2016. After that ~1250 more women and girls have been impacted due to the high interest shown by different NGOs and organizations in India to take it up as their CSR initiatives.