With time, the focus on educating young children, especially young girls, has been increasing. The government's 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' initiative has been one step in that direction and now more and more people are realising that education is one of the key factors in a country's overall development. Still, the capital city saw one of the highest dropout rates among girls in government schools in the year 2016. An insufficient number of teachers and the lack of sanitary public utilities were considered as reasons for so many dropouts from primary and middle classes of government schools. A Delhi school girl, Saranya Das Sharma, was disheartened by these statistics.
When she realised that one of the reasons so many girls drop out is the lack of access to menstrual hygiene, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Saranya asked one of her friends, Aamiya Vishwanathan, to help her in her pursuit and thus, Project Sashakt was born. Both these young girls are 11th-grade students The Shri Ram School's Moulsari campus in DLF, Gurgaon. While talking to The Better India, Saranya said,
I consider myself a women’s rights advocate. I read that girls actually have to leave school because their schools don’t have facilities and they themselves can’t afford basic products like pads. Given that I am also a school-going girl, this didn’t sit right with me. So, I spoke to my friend and we decided on what we could do to help these girls out.
Saranya, along with her friend, began distribution of the sanitary pads in September 2016 and together they have decided to make sure that sanitary napkins are supplied to the women and girls all round the year. Another thing that the duo clearly understood was the need to educate and make these women aware of their own bodies and its functions. Therefore, they also decided to conduct workshops to address this issue. Saranya elaborated on this while talking to The Better India,
Right in the beginning, we sat down and decided on the curriculum of what we would cover under the workshops. We start with teaching these girls how they can use and dispose sanitary napkins. Then we talk to them about basic hygienic practices like bathing and washing hands. We also address taboo subjects and explain why they should not be ignored. We also teach them about some infections that can occur and how they can treat them.
Understanding the environmental effects that disposed sanitary napkins can cause, they also decided to produce and supply biodegradable sanitary napkins to women.
These girls are very proactive and find out all the necessary information like the nearest doctors and other relevant information before going to any government school for a workshop. After the work, they hand out the first supply themselves and then send boxes of sanitary napkins on a monthly basis.
This workshop was first started by these girls when they had just completed the 10th grade. They realise that as they have graduated to a higher class, they will have to work harder to do well in their studies, but it seems that the duo is up for any challenge as long as they also ensure that no other girls are dropping out of school. This effort is now also being recognised by may NGOs in the region who are helping them distribute sanitary napkins. With their determination and planning, these girls plan to expand their venture and reach out to more schools in the near future.