By Miracle Nwankwo

“If someone as privileged as me is worried about managing her periods during the lockdown, you can only imagine how tough it is for women in containment zones with no new income.”

On hearing the announcement on the governments’ decision to instigate the lockdown policy early this year, we all ran into panic buying, but a few persons rather swung into a panic over the poor and less privilege. We cannot imagine the kind of pain and lack these set of people must be facing especially the women and girls who have to deal with stereotyped issues like menstrual hygiene.

In the past few weeks, a young woman in Mumbai, Deane de Menezes, has been going from door-to-door distributing free sanitary napkins to low-income households across the city. Due to the close of borders, businesses and restrictions on movements as a result of the pandemic, production of menstrual hygiene products and its accessibility has been a major issue, but poor women and girl have the greater impact of this lack.

The issue of menstrual hygiene has been a concern in many places in the world, even before the COVID19 pandemic. The lack of access to sanitary pads by many women and girls is appalling.

In most areas, the lack of basic knowledge about menstruation is the main issue than access to sanitary pads.

In response to this gap, Menezes started a project called “Red is the New Green” with the aim of helping women and girls in India get basic knowledge on menstrual hygiene as well as access to sanitary pad.

Menezes started by installing sanitary napkin dispensers and incinerators in schools across Mumbai, to create awareness about hygienic practices during menstruation.

The project also created interactive awareness sessions for students at various schools, where members discuss myths and fears associated with menstruation.

The interactive sessions were extended to women of all ages, and they also included male students, because they felt it was important for boys to learn about the period so that they can also help spread the knowledge and not laugh at girls in school.

During one of the sessions, a woman in her 40s broke down as she shared her first-period experience. She told her fellow members how she dropped out of school because of the ridicule she faced when she was on her first period. Now she regrets taking that decision because she is not able to help her children with their homework.

When Menezes noticed that some people were still involved in the act of flushing their pads down the toilet, she entered into a partnership with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, and Nagpur in India. To install environment-friendly incinerators in certain schools to dispose of the waste. This was to help promote sustainable environmental practices, in order to ensure that that the development is not at the expense of the environment.

So far, the project has helped over 15,000 female students and has also resulted in the installation of sanitary-pad-vending machines in over 30 schools, both government and private. From these machines, female students have access to three pads. This will further reduce the rates of girl-child dropping out of school as a result of menstruation stigmas.

A year ago, the project was recognised by the Queen under the 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

Winners of this prestigious award were invited to the UK by the Queen, and they were entitled to a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Award which began since 2014, has recognised and rewarded young people between ages of 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are doing tremendous things and impacting the lives of people in their various communities.

In the past few years, Deane has worked tirelessly with several communities and on-ground partners to spread awareness on menstrual hygiene. As such, RING has now distributed 2.3 lakh sanitary napkins to women in need and efforts are still ongoing to raise funds to continue this good work in India, having received a positive encouragement on the Pad initiative.

Here in Amazons Watch Magazine, we count it a great pleasure to raise the flags high for Deane de Menezes and to sing her praise for an example well portrayed.

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