Action Lab 2050 begins its journey to break free of menstrual hygiene stereotypes in India
Hyderabad: The 4th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-2016 estimates that, of the 336 million menstruating women in India, only 36% (121 million) women and girls use sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced. Moreover, there is a significant divide in the use of products between rural and urban areas. 71% of girls in India report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period. Action Lab 2050 (AL50), a social enterprise born out of a vision to make a difference to women aims to create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential. With its technical knowhow & operational capabilities, AL50 strives to scout, funnel & build a set of capable stakeholders in the eco-system for the broader motive of creating a conducive environment for every woman to realize her true worth. AL50 was launched today through a virtual conference in the presence of Chief Guest Ms. Aprajita Sarangi, Member of Parliament, Bhubaneswar and several other eminent speakers that included Mr. Basanta Kumar, Country Director, Project Concern International, Ms. Sneha Mishra, Secretary, Aaina, Ms Neelima Pandey, Director- Program Design, District Transformation Program (DTP), Ms. Lalita Bhattacharjee, FAO, Dr. M.G.Ragunathan, Principal, Guru Nanak College & Members of the Executive Committee of The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), Govt of India. Mr. Aaquib Hussain, Co-Founder, Ms. Ruby Ray, CEO & Director and Mr. Srustijeet Mishra, Co-Founder & Director, were present to represent Action Lab 2050.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Ruby Ray, CEO & Director, Action Lab 2050 added, “India with its myriad cultures needs an immediate single platform solution and discourse on menstrual and maternal health. Period shaming must end to empower our women and girls especially living under poverty. In our country only 36% of women use sanitary pads and 70 per cent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. About 12.1 out of 33.6 crore menstruating women use sanitary napkin in the country as per National Family Health Survey. Rest of the women and girls are often more adversely and disproportionately affected due to poor sanitation facilities, worried about their social dignity and safety, as it strongly borders around cultural taboos that significantly impact women and girls’ lives and reinforces gender exclusion. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated menstrual hygiene particularly among the poorest communities affected by multiple deprivations. These issues encouraged us to form Action Lab 2050 where we address the lack of education on the issue, persisting taboos and stigma, overcome limited access to reusable bio-degradable hygienic menstrual products through first-of-its-kind eCommerce platform and work in tandem with UNDP Sustainable Development Goals also advocate for proper sanitation in schools with Ministry of Health, Government of India. At Action Lab 2050, we sincerely believe that this will cater to an ever-emerging need of creating awareness among the society at large about menstrual hygiene and bring about a positive change.”
Ms Neelima Pandey, Director- Program Design, District Transformation Program (DTP), further added, “I would like to congratulate the Action Lab 2050 team for bringing such critical contributions to the space Stakeholders for AL 50 platform
ü Social Workers/organisations who work on maternal health & well- being of women including Menstrual Health Systems (MHS), ensuring availability of medical products & services, skilling on self-sustenance, spreading education on women’s health issues.
ü Product & service providers for the eco system viz medication, products related to MHS, including adequate disposal mechanism for environment protection, vending machine manufacturers for menstrual hygiene products.
ü Government bodies at the state & central level involved in policy making for Maternal & Menstrual Hygiene products and allied services.
ü Universities & educational institutes researching on Maternal Health & Menstrual Hygiene
of menstrual poverty. It was heartening to listen to the speakers advocating it to be recognized as a separate right for women. We at Piramal Foundation are a learner in this space and for us the only way to be of impact and service to our girls is to collaborate with experts and scale the impact.”
AL50 is in the process of tying up with various universities for research on social, cultural & policy-making aspects of maternal & menstrual health. Overall, AL50 aims at scouting, funneling & building a set of capable stakeholders in the eco-system for the broader motive of creating a conducive environment for every woman to live up to her full potential. To begin with, AL50 hopes to create a library of best practices, technological, social and innovations that would create disruptions in the system. AL50 aims to be the ideal platform for recognizing & rewarding stalwarts in respective fields in the eco-system and more importantly curate and create a sustainable eco system in the society where not only menstrual hygiene systems in all its aspects from the product usage, availability, disposal and knowledge, become a part of the fundamental rights but the taboos and superstitions associated with menstruation becomes a thing of the distant past.
Even in the 21st century, the menstrual health and hygiene of women all over the world, is a subject of concern due to cultural taboos, gender inequality, poverty, prejudiced social norms, and lack of basic services. The pandemic has furthered worsened the situation with prolonged lockdowns and reduced income. Poor menstrual health and hygiene not only impacts the reproductive health of women but also causes stress, anxiety and reduced participation in education, work and community life. Menstruation is intrinsically related to human dignity – when people cannot access safe bathing facilities and safe and effective means of managing their menstrual hygiene, they are not able to manage their menstruation with dignity. Action Lab 2050 intends to align itself with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN to focus on improving equity to meet the needs of women, children, and disadvantaged populations so that “no one is left behind”.