Menstruation may be a taboo topic in the predominantly tribal district of Palghar in Maharashtra, but for women from the Katkari community in Dabhon village, manufacturing sanitary pads guarantees a sense of permanency and a steady income.
Women from the Katkari community, which is classified as a primitive vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), usually migrate to different parts of the state and country to work in brick kilns or as farm labourers, but an initiative under the Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP) has given them an opportunity to earn their livelihood without having to move from one place to another.
A brain child of sub-divisional magistrate Dahanu Aseema Mittal, the project has been funded by the Manav Vikas Mission (human development mission) of the Maharashtra government and implemented by the ITDP Dahanu.
"Women from the Katkari community used to migrate for work. We gave them extensive training and now they have started manufacturing sanitary napkins. We are looking forward to seeing a major change in their lives," said Mittal, chief of ITDP Dahanu.
"The women, who are part of the self-help group Pragati Mahila Utpadak Gat, were trained over a period of six months to learn the process of manufacturing bio-degradable sanitary pads," she said.
"While 10 women are currently engaged in the activity, many more are set to join the group and the project will be extended to other parts of the district as well," the official said.
Neevjivan Foundation, an NGO, imparted training to the women on practical aspects of the business and they are now manufacturing sanitary pads under the brand name 'Pragati'.
Proteek Kundu, the director of the organisation, said,"Women from the Katkari community typically are away from their homes for eight months in a year and the project was started to introduce them to vocations they could take up without having to move around for work."
"With the active support of the ITDP Dahanu, we started engaging with the women and introducing them to various vocations. In fact, they themselves came up with the idea of making sanitary pads because of the challenges related to menstrual hygiene and other health issues faced by them during menstruation," Kundu said.
The foundation works with the primary objective of creating opportunities for sustainable livelihood for tribal women and youth based in rural Maharashtra so that they don't have to migrate to cities in search of work.
"The women received training in team work, identifying potential customers, conducting a market survey, pricing products and marketing them, accounts and book-keeping among other concepts," Kundu said.
"Funds from the ITDP were used to buy machines, raw materials, packaging materials and other related infrastructure to start the small-scale venture," he said.
"We sincerely hope that this project will help this group of women and their associates settle down in their village and help stop their migration to the cities," Kundu added.