After winning the Miss World crown as well as the hearts of millions of people across the globe, Manushi Chhillar has set out to lead the ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ tour with her ‘Feminine Hygiene Awareness’ campaign. After visiting Hyderabad and Kolkata, she was in New Delhi on Tuesday (January 6), before continuing on to five other cities. The 20-year-old inspires to not only wear the crown, but to take the responsibility that comes with it on her shoulders too.
A cause close to her heart, creating awareness on menstrual hygiene was a social project presented by Chhillar at the Miss World contest, which eventually won her the title. Spilling the beans on how she was inspired to choose this issue for her Miss World project, she said, “I studied in Haryana to see the other side of life as a medical student, and got to know how women didn’t have enough money to buy sanitary pads and would often use old rags or a piece of cloth during periods.”
Taking it forward globally, Manushi is moving city-to-city and country-to-country spreading the message that ‘Freedom From Shame’ of menstruation is essential for healthy and happier women. To break the taboo around menstruation, sanitary pads and spread awareness about maintaining female hygiene, Miss World chairman-CEO Julia Morley explained how the organisation is “taking the initiative ahead” and making it possible for scores of people in the rural areas to be able to access sanitary napkins.
Narrating her experience of interacting with the people there, Chillar said, “We had many discussions with not only women, but with families and told them the benefits of using pads and maintaining their health and hygiene. For the first time, we gave sanitary pads for free, and most women were satisfied and delighted after using it.”
Joining hands with Aakar Innovations, an NGO that works on the same issue, they are also planning to create more biodegradable sanitary napkins. Founder Jaydeep Mandal also wishes that the government reconsiders the 12 per cent tax imposed on sanitary napkins. “It is double the tax which was there earlier. At least, for the green products and the ones that can be turned into compost, there should be no tax. This is something unique we are doing,” he said.
Moreover, as a collective group, they also plan to educate men about the importance of menstruation in family planning. Sharing a snippet of how they are working round the clock to make sustainable sanitary pads a reality, Chhillar posted a photo on Facebook with a note about how “biodegradable and low cost sanitary pads from jute” are made by the women of the community.
Her vision is to be able to develop a “sustainable system” of manufacturing, selling and buying. Drawing the limelight to how “times are changing”, she added, “Earlier, since the technology was not so developed, those practices might have been necessary, but now that we do, using it will also not hamper women from going to certain places that were barred earlier.”
She also went on to say that instead of telling the villagers that their old methods are “wrong”, we should tell them what you are doing is all right, but you could also use the new innovative products that have come up in recent times. “With these small efforts, people are opening up to these ‘new’ ways of taking care of their hygiene during menstruation.” Stressing on the importance of “education” and “curiosity”, she said it can be “the hunger to know more can be used as a tool to spread awareness”.
At the Delhi press meet, there was also Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle, along with Magline Jeruto (Miss World Africa), Ha Eun Kim (Miss World Asia), Annie Dian Evans (Miss World Oceania), Stephanie Jayne Hill (Miss World Europe), Solange Johnson Sinclair (Miss World Caribbean) and Alma Andrea Meza Carmona (Miss World America). They collectively also shed light on how menstrual hygiene is a global issue, and reflected on more ways to curb it. Drawing a comparison, Jeruto said how “it is not only a huge problem in India, but Kenya too.”
Meanwhile, Miss World 2016, put the entire purpose of the initiative in her words: “Feminine hygiene is very important as not will it eventually create life, but also make women happier and healthier.”
Reminded of how when she visited her home state Haryana after her victory at the beauty pageant, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had announced to arrange for free supply of sanitary napkins to girls in state schools, Chhillar said while there’s a lot that can happen if all political parties prioritise menstrual hygiene in their manifestos, it’s not about “just politicians”.
“Every individual has a social responsibilty. That can push for change in the society,” she said, adding, “Every single person, not just politicians, have this responsibility and if everyone takes this up, then there will be no one to fight against!”