The story of a group of women who started manufacturing sanitary napkins in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur village travelled across the globe with a documentary based on them — Period. End of Sentence — winning an Academy Award this year. Turning the camera to Ludhiana, a similar story can be seen: a group of women running a manufacturing unit that supplies free of cost napkins in government schools, women’s jail, slums etc.
A workshop running on the upper floor of a residential building in Krishna Nagar is producing packs with six napkins each, neatly packed after sterilisation and a note on the top saying ‘Gift For Change- Girls in Freedom Trail’.
With three workers supervised by a group of women who arrange donations, the unit is manufacturing around 20,000 napkins per month which are eco-friendly and biodegradable as being using wood pulp, cotton and organic fibre.
“We are currently supplying napkins to girls in government schools of Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Jalandhar and even some schools in Palampur of Himachal Pradesh through Rotary Club workers. Also, we distribute in slums and women’s jail. Women tell us that how these napkins are changing their lives as they never used one before. They used cloth which use to itch and lead to infections. We are taking gynaecologists to schools to educate girls on menstrual hygiene,” says Param Saini, who is supervising the entire project.
She says that entire machinery was brought from Arunachalam Muruganantham (based on whom the film PadMan was made) from Coimbatore for Rs 3.40 lakh. The building which houses the unit belongs to Prof Jagmohan Singh, nephew of Bhagat Singh, who provided the space for free.
“Luckily we do not have to pay rent and power bill. We pay the salaries of the three workers through the donations. But since the donations are not fixed, sometimes we have to pay from our pockets even for the the raw materials,” says Saini, adding that unit became operational in November last year with the help from Ludhiana unit of Rotary Club to purchase the machinery.
Madan Pal Verma (52), the only male worker in the workshop, is busy counting the napkins prepared for the day and telling his colleagues, Rajinder Kaur (52) and Shikha (28), to wrap cotton napkins properly with organic fibre covering.
Verma, who earlier worked as a security guard, says he never felt awkward in working at the unit with women colleagues.
“When I told my family that I have joined a sanitary napkins manufacturing unit, they never objected. There is nothing awkward being the only male worker here. In fact, it is very important to keep women away from health problems. I am proud that my work is helping in doing so. I also took pads for my wife as she expressed her wish to give feedback on my work. She liked them and said quality was good. My daughter is very small but when she grows up I will educate her too about this,” Verma says.
His colleague Rajinder Kaur says that she does not want women to face problems she had faced in her younger days.
“Girls should know how important it is to use sanitary napkins for health. I faced a lot of problems personally. Kapda use kardey si oh vi chupa chupa ke (I used to get cloth that too in hiding). We never got access to napkins and were always at risk of infections. Now even my 28-year old son appreciates that I work here and comes to help me with work whenever he is free,” she says.
Shikha says her family had objected to going for this job, but she resisted. Now she is helping her husband in raising their three children with her salary of Rs 5,000.
“I wanted to earn myself. It has given me confidence,” she says.