This idea is a three year program that tackles the problem of women’s lack of empowerment and employment opportunities, as well as women’s lack of access to menstrual hygiene products in two urban slums in Delhi, India.
It addresses the problem by providing women from low income households with a profitable and sustainable source of income generation, while also improving access to menstrual hygiene products in the community. It intersects planet and prosperity because it promotes the production and sale of locally produced, all natural, biodegradable sanitary pads over the import and promotion of international products (planet), and by providing poor women with opportunities for employment (prosperity).
In India, gender inequality is prevalent. Women suffer disproportionately from poverty. The society is highly patriarchal which has a wide range of detrimental effects on the lives of women and girls: it impacts their opportunities for economic empowerment through restrictions on women’s mobility, access to education, and health facilities; reduces their decision-making power; and increases their risk of being a victim of violence. Women have fewer employment opportunities, and often struggle to access the capital, resources, and knowledge necessary to start their own businesses or income generating activities.
Women also face an additional (biological) barrier to gender equality: menstruation. Every day, there are 800 million menstruating women and girls around the world, and yet in many places, including India, they face serious barriers to managing their menstruation safely, comfortably and confidently. In many cultures, women face harsh social taboos that exclude them from certain activities during menstruation, and cause feelings of shame and embarrassment.
Due in part to these taboos, menstruation is not something that it is openly discussed, even among family members. Women and girls often have very little understanding of what menstruation is and what their options are for managing it. They also do not have access to affordable menstrual hygiene products like pads, tampons or menstrual cups because these products are not available in their communities, or because they do not have the disposable income necessary to purchase these products. One study found that of the 355 million menstruating women and girls in India, 88% rely on improvised materials, such as cloth or rags, which can lead to infection, discomfort or embarrassing leaks. The cost of hygienic products like sanitary pads is a significant barrier to use—70% of Indian families cannot afford sanitary pads (Plan India, 2013).
To improve gender equality for women, our project will address both access to economic opportunity, and improving access to affordable menstrual hygiene products.
To ensure that women and girls have access to hygienic and affordable menstrual hygiene products, Plan International has developed and successfully piloted a local production model, which this project will scale up in the Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri resettlement colonies of Delhi. We will take a two pronged approach: 1) creating opportunities for low income women to engage in income generating activities so that they can afford to purchase products; and 2) supporting the supply and distribution of low cost, affordable sanitary pads.
To do this, we will train women’s groups to manufacture, market and sell low cost, disposable sanitary pads. This not only provides a source of income for the women, but also increases community access to affordable menstrual hygiene products.