The 18-year-old student, Sohan Pappu from Vijayawada, has started an initiative named Project Suraksha. He, along with other volunteers, produces organic sanitary napkins with banana pulp and bamboo for women residing in rural areas.
Menstruation is still considered a "hush-hush subject" in India, due to which lack of awareness about it becomes very common. While every effort made in this regard is worth appreciating, what Sohan Pappu from Vijayawada is doing makes him even more appreciable. From producing organic sanitary napkins to spreading awareness among the rural community regarding menstruation, the teen is focused on promoting menstrual hygiene among women through his projects.
"In today’s age, 88% of Indian women living in rural areas do not use sanitary napkins. They use old clothes, mud, leaves, or anything they find which can prevent the flow and collect menstrual blood. Despite the dire consequences, menstrual hygiene is continually neglected due to social taboos and cultural norms," Sohan says.
The 18-year-old is the Vice Chairman of an Andhra Pradesh-based social enterprise, Our Youth Social Community (OYSC). Started in 2017, the organisation has been the umbrella under which several projects have been carried out.
"Due to lack of awareness, even I got to know about periods and sanitary napkins in 2020 when I was 17 years old. Then, I realised, how girls, who cannot even afford napkins, skip schools and work amid being on their periods. This made me feel so bad and I decided to distribute the napkins for free," the Manipal University student says.
The first project was based in Guntur, a district in Andhra Pradesh where Sohan, along with a team of 4 to 5 members and other volunteers, had distributed sanitary napkins of already available brands to women in rural areas.
From distributing to making
"After our first campaign, we did 4 to 5 more such campaigns and realised that one campaign was taking months of time and effort. We also realised that those regular pads contained Dioxin, preservatives, plastic, and other dangerous chemicals like polymers which causes Cervical Cancer, mental health problems, itching, bacterial problems, immunity problems, maternity problems, sex problems, and urinary tract infection," Sohan says. "This is when we thought of producing organic pads," he adds.
Currently, the team is working for Project Suraksha of which making and distributing organic pads is a part. "We worked for seven months to make organic pads. We have also done trials with our team so that we can rectify the problems. However, finding supplies was a difficult task and took us 2-3 months," Sohan Pappu from Vijayawada says.
Though, not many rural women have been served as the production of the pads is still underway, the team has made a few from banana pulp and bamboo and have distributed among women who have given good responses, as per Sohan.
However, Sohan is trying to procure bamboo non-woven material as the earlier supplier has halted the process due to some reason. Hopeful for the future, Sohan is determined to serve not less than 1,94,280 people every year with the organic pads.
To reach more than one lakh
"We will make boxes of napkins where each box will include seven pads. Since we are targeting to produce 3,40,000 napkins in a year, that will be divided among 48,571 packets, each containing seven napkins. Hence, the plan is to distribute to 16,190 rural girls and women in India every month with those 48,571 packages. As a result, we will deliver to 16,190 women for 12 months which will amount to 1,94,280 people per year," he states.
Alongside, Sohan and his team are also working for a website through which those who have the access to mobile phones will be able to buy organic pads at reasonable rates.
"There are a lot of problems that arise due to lack of awareness about menstruation. The poor cannot afford to buy pads, the ones who use cloths do not know the right way to clean and those who buy pads, ultimately, harm the environment. Our initiative, thus, aims to ensure that women live in an environment that values and supports their ability to manage their menstruation with dignity," Sohan says.