“आता माझी पाळी” च्या पुढची ओळ “अळी मिळी गुपचिळी ” this scenario is even prevalent in the urban population let alone rural areas. Even a basic necessity of sanitary napkins is inaccessible and unaffordable for a large segment of girls especially in rural India. Dr Pratibha Athavale has received a lot of national awards from the likes of our past president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. While on one of her health camps to Kashmir, she got acquainted with this sorry state of affairs and thus decided to change it. Following is an interview about her and her work.
Hello ma’am, please tell us something about yourself?
A – Namaskar.
I am Dr.Pratibha Athavale from Ahmedabad. I am Dental Surgeon, practising in Ahmedabad for last 40 years, also I am an avid trekker. I am associated with Seva Bharati, Gujarat. I have been taking health camps in the rural parts of North East and Kashmir since last 18 years.
You are a dentist by profession, what made you think about working towards affordable sanitary napkins?
A – Since last 18 years I have been conducting free dental checkup and treatment camps in interior and border places on the hills of North East states of India. Also since last 3 to 4 years, I have been conducting camps in Uri sector of Kashmir Valley.
During these camps I noticed that women and girls are facing problems of washing clothes during winter and rainy season.
Because of this chances of getting infection are more.
Also girls staying in hostels at remote places can’t afford to pay for sanitary pads .
So when I started thinking about it, I thought that if we can make small unit to prepare sanitary pads in a simple way, girls and women having small groups will be able to make sanitary pads on their own.
So I worked on this idea almost for last 6 to 8 months and finally I could develop simple devices like mould, pressing device, UV chamber and simple incinerator to burn the used pads.
We would like to know more about your sanitary napkin unit, and how does it differ from the already available alternatives?
A– The whole unit can be kept in a bag so it is portable.
Most important thing is it is affordable.
So if it is kept in the girls hostel or in Swavlamban Kendra, Bachat group of women, it will be useful. This will be of great use to the girls and women of tribal region. This can be the monthly activity for girls in the school also.
What about the financial aspects of this project, how much does the whole unit cost and what will it cost to prepare a single pad?
A- The complete unit doesn’t cost more than Rs. 6000/– excluding the bag and the transport.
All devices can be kept in a suitcase so that the unit is portable. I give raw materials for 100 pads to begin with. Afterwards they can purchase the raw materials from suppliers .Raw materials used are:
1) Non woven fabric
2) Spunlace fabric
3) Spunbond fabric
4) air laid paper
5) blue plastic
You will get receipt and thanksgiving letter from Seva Bharati, Gujarat.
Per pad cost is Rs.2.
You started this project at the age of 65, clearly reinstating that age is just a number. What drives you to work so relentlessly?
My purpose was stronger than anything else, so I worked towards it. Now my aim is to provide these units to remote villages in different parts of our country and I look forward to individuals, NGOs/Organizations to take this activity as a Social Responsibility!
– Edited by Uma Marda and Mrunali Gondane