Maya Vishwakarma is a fine example of how taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation affects girls and women in India. Hailing from a village in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh, she did not hear about sanitary napkins until she was 26.
As a result, she faced a lot of health issues, and now the 36-year-old is determined to make sure that other women do not have to suffer through such situations like her.
That is why, now popularly called the 'Padwoman' of India', she quit being a cancer researcher in California, and came back to the country. Talking about her adolescence to PTI, she said,
I was told to use cloth by a woman relative during my first period. This had caused several infections. Talking about menstrual health is still a taboo in our society. My experiences in early life inspired me to work in this field.
Maya's parents were agricultural labourers who had to struggle to make ends meet for the family. Yet, they did not try to stop her from studying or force her into a marriage. So, she after schooling, she did her post-graduation in Biochemistry from a university in Jabalpur.
After that, Maya did a research stint at AIIMS, Delhi before moving to the US where she was working as a cancer researcher for leukemia.
Maya started Sukarma Foundation in her hometown two years ago after coming to India. She visits women from all over India creating awareness about the importance of using sanitary napkins and breaking the myths around menstruation.
At the same time, the foundation also manufactures sanitary napkins at a low and affordable cost and give them to these women. Through it, she creates awareness about the importance of using sanitary napkins and also manufactures and provides them to women at an affordable price.
In the two years since she started, she has already affected the lives of more than 2,000 women. Talking about her work to The New Indian Express, she told,
The money for the machine and the unit was sourced through crowdfunding, personal savings and from friends working abroad for the California and India chapter of the Sukarma Foundation founded by me. It was while scouting for the best and cost-efficient machinery for producing sanitary pads that I met the real ‘Padman’ (Muruganatham) two years ago and saw the machine being used by him.
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