Nearly 50,000 women refugees from war-ravaged Syria and Iraq, currently living in refugee camps in Jordan, use unwashed rags for sanitary protection, encountering several diseases that their meager UN allowances cannot afford. But if all goes according to plan, the women will soon have a solution to the problem of unhygienic menstruation from Vadodara. Amy Peake, founder of Loving Humanity, an organization that is working for the refugees of the conflict zone in association with the United Nations, is all set to replicate the low-cost sanitary napkin manufacturing model of Sakhi enterprise, founded by Vadodara’s Swati Bedekar, who works for menstrual hygiene in rural India.
Amy, who is currently in Vadodara to prepare way to ship 12 machines and the raw material for manufacturing low-cost sanitary napkins , is hopeful that the unit will be set up in the next few months. Speaking on the sidelines of an interaction at Vadodara’s Community Science Centre, where she shared her experiences of working in Syria, Amy said she was compelled to leave behind her three daughters and husband in England to set up Loving Humanity in Jordan after being moved by a photograph of Syrian refugees in a magazine while waiting her turn to see a doctor in 2014.
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“The Zataari refugee camp is made up of over 90,000 refugees who have painful stories and have lost their loved ones or left them behind in Syria. Many are disabled. There is very little water in the camp and the in freezing temperatures, the $10 per week allowance by the UN to refugee families is too meager to think of menstrual hygiene.” The sight of women using unwashed rags in absence of sanitary towels motivated Amy to search for a solution.
After trying to raise funds for the project to set up manufacturing units in Jordan and receiving backing from the UN for the project, Amy connected with Swati in Vadodara through a US woman activist.
Amy, who visited the Sakhi units in Gujarat says the Sakhi model innovated by Swati and her scientist husband Shyam has become the solution she was looking for.
“I realized that setting up 12 units in the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan would not just improve menstrual sanitation, but also empower at least 50 families as it brings in money through employment,” said Amy.