One Undertaking, Many Outcomes
· Improves women’s hygiene,
· boosts indigenousmachines,
· provides jobs in anentrepreneurial venture,
The girls at Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior, India, were looking for opportunities to provide meaningful community service in and around their city. Their research and surveys showed that a large population of Gwalior lives in slums, with no access to basic services like water and sanitation imposing a severe hardship, especially on the female population. Hygiene and cleanliness which is vital to women’s health is poor and on the lowest priority. Awareness and availability of hygiene products like sanitary napkins is absent. Where the basic needs for life are not available, these women can’t think of buying expensive sanitary napkins available in the markets. Thus these women resort to unhygienic alternatives ranging from rags, leaves and even sand !
The Principal Mrs. Nishi Misra and the students recognized this problem and applied themselves to finding a way to supply sanitary napkins to the underprivileged women of 2 villages. After intense brain storming and research,they identified a low cost sanitary napkin manufacturing unit. This fully indigenous machine was designed, created & tested by Mr.A.Muruganantham of Jayaashree Industries, Coimbatore. The machine had been awarded the National Award for Best Innovation by the then President of India,Mrs. Prathiba Patil. This machine uses bio degradable materials like banana fiber to make low cost sanitary napkins and can be run by students after minimal training.
Excited at theprospect of this hugely meaningful service, the students set about finding waysto finance this machine and the first consignment of raw material. Funds were raised from Funfairs, HouseSales, contributions from Alumni and from The Friends of Round Square, an international organisation of which the school is a member. The machine arrived and was installed amidst great curiosity and enthusiasm among the students and staff.The simple training for working the machines was imparted to a pioneering group of staff and students.
The simple machines are laid out on 8 stations -- each the size of a student’s study desk. The process begins with tearing the raw-cotton sheets and mixing with binding cotton in a Mixer Jar. The material is weighed and 12 grams of material is portioned into moulds which are compressed under an air-powered stamp. After inserting a water-proof strip,this initial napkin is sealed into absorbent tissue-cloth. An adhesive is applied and covered with a strip of oil-paper which can be stripped off to set the napkin in place. A maternity version with longer ‘tails’ is also being manufactured. At the end of the assembly line, the napkin is sterilised in a UV chamber. Sets of 8 napkins are packed together with cling-film and are ready for distribution.
The studentstarget to distribute the napkins to 250 women in the villages of Zagra, Sausa and on the outskirts of Gwalior with a sustained and unbroken supply. Batches of students spend time with the womento educate them about the use and disposal of the napkins. The huge demand for the product has set the students to work out a small scale industry model to make it self-sustaining. The model holds the possibilityof being transferred to villages as an entrepreneurial venture too. There is a huge demand for the product since it costs just Re 1/- per napkin.
Since this willbe an ongoing program, the raw material will be purchased from funds collectedthrough charities conducted from time to time. The students contribute ‘shram-daan’ (service by labour) andearn ‘volunteer hours’. Boys and girlsof many member-schools of Round Square in the country and abroad, have signed up for the ‘shram-daan’which will go a long way in gendersensitization.
The initiativeof setting up this unit to produce and distribute sanitary napkins to underprivileged women, is named “SKV-Sankalp”- a resolution taken by SKV girls to help women to live with dignity.