(Excerpt from our interview with Maanushi Foundation)
Some of the most inspiring stories from the field have been about individuals, alone or in groups, who have been able to bring about profound changes in their society through simple but effective interventions. In this blog, we will share the story of two young women, who founded a collective called Maanushi Foundation to spread awareness about menstrual health and hygiene in their village in India.
In November 2020, Lakshmy contacted us enquiring about the possibility of being part of our movement after switching to cloth pads and we were more than happy to hear about her passion to make the cloth pads accessible for her community. In her words, “I never thought I would be comfortable using a cloth pad, but the moment I tried it, I was convinced of never going back to disposables. I also wanted to do my bit to spread the message, and that is how this journey began!”
In December 2020, Lakshmy and Pooja gave birth to Maanushi Foundation– a non-profit collective that works with adolescents about menstrual health management and wellness. The foundation started its journey as a Pad for Pad partner with us and are now our Pads for Sisters partner. Over a period of a year and a half, they have been able to distribute reusable cloth pads to over 600 rural women and girls through their initiatives.
When asked about her experience of being a menstrual health facilitator, Pooja expressed that “the experience of being facilitator and working with young girls particularly has been more about finding my own voice and agency while empowering my fellow menstruators to exercise their own voice and agency through making informed choices about their bodies.” In fact, the most beautiful part of working in this sector is how we enable and nurture the spirit of sisterhood– something that not only empowers each other but also acts as a locus point for transformation in the society at large. Lakshmy shared that by reaching out to women about sustainable menstruation, they learned about the ongoing financial crisis in the community and had the opportunity to develop economic initiatives to support the women to build their own livelihoods.
Maanushi Foundation primarily works in Idukki district of Kerala (India), a hill station in the Western Ghats. The region has agriculture as their main revenue and the population is largely rural. A rather striking story of impact that we heard from Lakshmy was about her experience in working with the tribal communities of her area was this:
“When we went for a feedback session after three months, one of the participants told us that she could understand an untoward gesture from a male relative and was able to hold her ground and say no thanks to the session. This was particularly inspiring for us because with the menstrual health session we don’t talk in detail about how to identify sexual abuse, but when young girls feel confident about their bodies than ashamed, they can say no when it comes to situations. I guess the impact of our work is far more than what we can directly quantify.”
You can check out their work here: www.maanushifoundation.org