Mangesh Jha gave up a well-paying job to travel the length and breadth of Jharkhand. He had to travel by foot at times in places with no road or transport facility. He did all this with a single objective in his mind — to distribute sanitary napkins to as many women as possible.
When taboos around menstruation make it almost impossible for women to talk about it to other women, it becomes all the more difficult for a man to initiate a conversation on the subject. It is for this reason that Mangesh's efforts to overcome barriers to ensure all women get access to sanitary napkins are of great significance.
Mangesh (29) is a hotel management graduate and he quit his job with The Oberoi Group to start on this mission in 2014. Talking about his intention to Hindustan Times, he said,
I only see myself as a conscious citizen of the country, willing to walk the extra mile for rural citizens. Anybody can do this work. There is no rocket science involved. I know distribution of sanitary pads cannot serve the larger purpose of making it a habit in rural areas. I am planning to set up a small manufacturing unit in a village to provide inexpensive pads to women.
Initially, Mangesh sold sanitary napkins stitched by his mother. But he now has volunteers from the villages he visits, who help him procure sanitary napkins and distribute them among women in distant places.
Earlier, women were skeptical of his intentions and were hesitant to even talk to him. However, over time, they started believing in him.
Though the government has launched a scheme wherein sanitary napkins are distributed to rural women at subsidised rates, it still hasn't reached the remote corners of many states. Mangesh makes sure to reach out to women in such parts because he understands what they go through.
In India, the myth and stigma surrounding menstruation is still immense. So much so that, only 13 percent of girls here are aware about menstruation before hitting puberty and more than 20 percent of girls quit school after their first periods, according to UNICEF.
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