UNICEF-SAWM Partnership and Dissemination of Adolescent Voices
Unicef-SAWM India Media Initiative
Sawm India - Unicef India Media Initiative on Gender and Sanitation 2018
"Journalists at work"
It is still a taboo in a country like India to talk about menstrual hygiene. But Purulia District in West Bengal sets an example to rest of the country by its Kanyashree Group of Adolescent Girls. This Group talks to the local community about the importance of Menstrual Hygiene, Child marriage, and its social Change. Initially, the locals ignored them, but they refused to give up. Today they have become game changers with their work in creating awareness leading to the reduction in cervical disease among women.
School girls, barely 12-15 years seemed well rehearsed about sanitary napkins and their usage but what was not well practiced was their confidence in dealing with outsiders, especially the media. The Kanyashree clubs is in different forms in all other states but what outshone and was different amongst these kanyashree girls from Purulia was their leadership qualities, their ability to tackle every tricky question with an unusual confidence that belied their age. Kanyashree clubs seem to be nurturing women leaders of tomorrow.
The visit to the 200-bedded Goalpara Civil Hospital, recipient of the Kayakalp and Lakshya awards, was a pleasant surprise as contrary to usual government hospitals, it was very clean and all parameters of hygiene are being duly followed. The hospital caters to five districts of Assam-Goalpara, Dhubri, Barpeta, Bongaigaon and Kamrup along with East and West Garo Hills district.
In Dubalia we were welcomed in a traditional way with innovative hand-made crowns of flowers and a pleasant folk song. I was introduced to a new concept of Raj mistries and Rani mistries who took a great initiative in Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan held in Jharkhand State. I found the Raj and Rani mistries so vibrant and mature. Not only the mistries but the whole village was quite aware of their duties and rights.
Azara Keotpara LP School is situated in the outskirts of Guwahati where mostly children from the backward fishermen scheduled caste community studies. Earlier, the dropout rate after the primary school level was high but this has almost become negligible following the intervention of the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan”. A significant achievement in the WASH programin this school has been children initiating changes in the sanitation and hygiene habits of their parents.
Journalists had a discussion on the women’s health issues in North East, malnutrition, Maternal mortality rate and so many things related to gender and sanitation. They spoke to AASHA worker and few patients there. was a visit which gave an overview of Gender and sanitation issues of a district of Northeast and how stakeholders are dealing with it. UNICEF’s WASH activities were the main change agent in the sanitation in the hospital.
Purulia is regarded as one of the most backward districts of West Bengal. The women there are much appreciable in terms of their concern regarding a clean and healthy society. Breaking the societal norms the women have come out as motivators or change agents in triggering for an Open Defecation Free (ODF) Society. Moreover, they took up the job of masonry and are proudly known as the women masons. We had an enriching session with the Self Help Groups.
It is not just in building toilets or creating awareness about using sanitary napkins but zeroing in on a number of other avenues, which can be eye openers for women not only in other districts of West Bengal but other states as well.
Menstruation is still a subject of gender disparity in India. Myths about menstruation are largely prevalent, forcing many girls to drop out of school early or be ‘ostracised’ during the […] Read more...