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Odisha's very own 'Pad Woman'

HYGIENE FIRST: Youngsters pose for a groupfie with sanitary napkins in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar: When Arunachalam Muruganantham is creating waves across the country with his invention of machines producing low-cost sanitary napkins, a 'Pad Woman' is on a similar mission in Odisha.

B. Gopamma of Ganjam's Markandi village has started an initiative to enable adolescent girls and young women of local self-help groups produce sanitary napkins that have become popular in nearby areas.

With help from self-help group federation Divya Jyoti Mahila Vikash, she first conducted a study of the excising menstrual practices and usage of sanitary napkin products.

Shyamsundar Badker of Vatsalya Foundation, who received training under Muruganantham, helped them install the machines and train local women in producing sanitary napkins.

"We wanted to ensure better health and hygiene among rural women and adolescent girls. So we wanted to promote a sanitary napkin unit that would provide employment to women," said Gopamma.

The napkin has been branded as Khushi and women have been promoting the product through existing self-help groups and retail shops in the area.

The project also created employable opportunity for local women to generate income by making sanitary napkins and in each village engaged in marketing of the product.

The Akshay Kumar-starrer Pad Man, which captures on reel Muruganantham's fight to ensure menstrual hygiene for women, has woken up the state government from slumber.

The government has decided to provide free sanitary napkins to adolescent girls across the state. The modalities of the scheme are being worked out. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation has installed pad-vending machines at 10 of its toilets, where women can get three pads in one packet for Rs 10.

The film has already caught the imagination of the nation with the social media playing a big role in breaking the taboo associated with discussing menstrual hygiene of women in public.

In the social media, 'Pad Man Challenge' has become popular with people from diverse backgrounds including celebrities, students, IT professionals, social activists participating in it. The challenge is to post pictures of holding a sanitary pad.

Ananda Kumar Mishra, a Bhubaneswar-based entrepreneur who runs an online grocery store named Grozip, has started an initiative inviting people to donate sanitary napkins.

"Due to unavailability of sustainable sanitary pads, girls in rural areas still use miti (soil) and clothes during their menstrual cycles. We have partnered with local NGOs to deliver free sanitary pads to young girls in Odisha," he said.

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