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It is more than an enterprise for Delhi’s “padwomen”

The self-help group run by women in Okhla is making Sakhi sanitary napkins with use of eco-friendly material

New Delhi: They are already being hailed by India’s national media as Delhi’s padwomen. The women of Mazdoor Kalyan Camp, a modest locality in New Delhi’s Okhla area, are a determined lot. They sit in their ‘unit’ on one of the coldest days the city has experienced in over a century, cutting, pasting and folding– the essential steps needed for making sanitary napkins. One of them, Jyoti, even has her infant as she follows the steps required in making a napkin. She has the company of seven other women who sit with her, each engrossed in their task. “This is the most important thing we have done in many years to make ourselves and our families financially secure,” says Jyoti.

The journey of these women towards self-empowerment began two years ago when the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) began an initiative in their area, an unauthorized settlement crammed with tiny houses, with a high density of population and several shared services like toilets and water. The services were far from satisfactory – the community toilets were dirty, taps were few while the area was littered with waste and the drains were choked. “It was nothing like what you see now,” says Vidya, another member of the SHG.

The Community Management Centre (CMC) set up by CFAR comprised women from the locality who learned to identify their problems, mobilise community opinion, and approach the civic department responsible for managing it. In due course, the women CMC members became knowledgeable on the subject of managing water and sanitation issues in communities, including solid and faecal waste management and drains. “We – realised that menstrual waste was a major concern in the settlement as most napkins were non-biodegradable. The use of napkins available in the market made of silicon and plastic sheets was a major cause for reproductive tract infection (RTI) and inflammation,” said Pista.

The CMC-empowered women had been looking for livelihood opportunities and were introduced to an initiative in which they would manufacture sanitary napkins, using easy-to-use machines. The CMC thus transformed into a self-help group and the Baba Sahib Sakhi Sanitary Napkin Unit was born. Seven women-Vidya, Kamlesh, Jyoti, Sunita, Pista, Seema and Mukesh decided to form it. They visited an operational unit located at Khurrampur in Haryana to understand the process.

Prior to the start of the unit the group had to deal with two major challenges. The first was finding the space for the unit while the second was the absorbent capacity of the pad.

“We devised an improved version which lasts longer and is more absorbent and this is what we are producing in this unit. Vidya and her family supported us by giving us the space in their house without any rent,” said Kamlesh.

CFAR had a partnership with Vatsalya Foundation from Vadodara, Gujarat, which has developed the model of small low-cost units which can produce sanitary napkins using bio-degradable material. The napkin has been approved and certified by Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) and the Department of North Eastern Region – DONER, Government of India. The machines used in the unit are manual except one which is used for sanitising the product though a UV filter. The group underwent a three day-training in which they learnt how to produce and market napkins. “The napkin produced in this unit would be 100% organic and made of banana fibre and can be burnt, leaving behind a non-toxic ash which can be mixed with soil,” said Juhi Jain, Senior Programme Manager with CFAR.

Carrying the brand name of Sakhi, the sanitary napkins are being marketed by the group proudly in adjoining neighbourhoods and bustling markets. National media has recently written about their initiative, which has brought them appreciation from people who had not heard about them. Even as boxes fill up with sanitary pads, the women from the Baba Sahib Sakhi Sanitary Napkin Unit are now focusing on another important aspect – marketing. “We are better than the competition (big brands promoted by multinational companies) because we are safe and hygienic and are also using eco-friendly material,” says Vidya.

The success of this initiative will pave the way for many more similar enterprises. “We hope this will soon become a success story so that we can support more women in becoming agents of change,” says CFAR’s Executive Director Akhila Sivadas.





IEC/BCC/SBCC Trainings in Bihar

Training On Information Education Communication / Behavior Change Communication and Social Behavior Change (IEC/BCC/SBCC) 

Venue: Garv Residencia, Gaya

DATE: 27th– 28th August 2019

Time: 9:30 am- 5:00 pm

Two-day training programmes for IEC Nodal Officers for implementing BCC Activities and processes are being organized by District State Health Society in collaboration with Centre for Advocacy and Research across Bihar. The basic objective of these trainings is to to enhance communication skills focused on effective social mobilization in targeted communities. 

The first leg of trainings was held in Gaya, Bihar with a high attendance by fifty one participants comprising of Medical Officers (MOIC) and Health Managers (Communication) of Gaya. The training focused on the utilization of techniques such as print media, social media, audio-visual medium and street plays for providing valuable information to targeted population regarding health schemes, diseases and health events.  
One of the key highlights while discussing the use of Electronic Media was quoting of  ‘Behaviour Change’ theories on to show how communities have different values along with a discussion their importance for communications to be successful. 

Emerging outcomes

Based on these learnings, a six member group representing the Electronic Media presented a short film “Lallu ka Nirnay” on Family Planning and discussed creation of videos and advertisements that will attract target audiences. The name of the short film was”. The video was greatly appreciated and Mr Nadeem was asked by the District Immunization Officer to share the video so that it could be showcased during the Monthly Review meeting. 

Similarly, in Folk Media, a 10 member team did a play titled “Bechara Majbuti Singh” on Tuberculosis. The team used the script writing training along with training for creation of culture based plots in this play. The act was hugely appreciated by the District Immunization Officer who requested Ms. Ranjana to share the video to share it with the relevant department in the State. 

In the area of Print Media, participants were oriented on the structure and various terms used by the print media like – press release, interviews, case studies, slogans, captions and advertisements. The print media team adopted “Maternal and Child Health” as their theme and used it to create a magazine named “Swasth Darpan” to highlight the use of data and quotes of specialists in news reports, to catch the attention of the reader.

Participants were also taught the importance of being social media friendly in a hi-tech society by the Social Media trainer. The members of the Social Media group were taught the process of forming Whatsapp groups, Facebook Pages and YouTube Channels to share information through these mediums to mobilize society. They then created a Facebook page on their PHC on their concerned blocks and shared the activities or events on Family Planning that had taken place in their blocks.

The participants appreciated the inputs by the CFAR team and suggested that such trainings be conducted at least once a year to enhance their skills and enlighten them more on social mobilization, sensitization and communication.




Massive Community Mobilization for Plastic
Waste Shramdan and Curbing of Single Use Plastic
17 September to 24 October 2019

To reduce the alarming effect of uncollected plastic waste on our ecosystem, CFAR partnered with the Delhi Government to carry out local implementation of Swachhata Hi Seva (2019), a Government of India campaign focused on Plastic Waste Management organized from 11th September to 27th October 2019.

On 17th October 2019, CFAR set in motion its first phase of Community Mobilization to curb Single Use Plastic in over 19 bastis across South and East Delhi.  The activities being undertaken include rallies and cloth bag distribution in exchange for plastic waste by local residents to generate awareness and initiate plastic waste disposal.

Plastic Gives Way To Cloth

With the ban against use of plastic bags coming into effect from October 2, 2019 the need for alternate options is gaining momentum…

It was  on  September 17th, that fourteen (14) women and girls from one SHG in Mazdoor Kayan Camp, Okhla phase-I and twenty eight (28) women and girls from Mazdoor Kalyan  Camp, phase- II, started initiatives to stitch cloth bags using old bed sheets, bed covers, kurtas and even salwars. 

The bags they made were an instant hit and on the very first day the twenty (20) bags they made were sold out; adding Rs.300 to their SHG kitties!” More recently on September 21st , a group of thirteen (13) women in Khichidipur bloc 7, have also started making bags.

For some time now, shopkeepers and people in the community have been talking about the forthcoming ban on plastic bags. In fact, many shopkeepers are no longer giving purchases in plastic bags and one can’t use one’s pallu to carry back your purchases. So it has become increasingly obvious that it was necessary to have cloth bags. It was this felt need, that prompted our SHGs to decide to make cloth bags.

“There were also other reasons.” One of them, as Sunita pointed out, is “children eat chow mien which vendors sell in plastic bags and since such food items are hot they absorb some of the chemicals in the bag which is a health hazard”. So parents and children, as Vishal, a 13 year told us,  “are insisting that such foods be sold in paper plates”.

Sanjay, a community member meanwhile pointed out that “cloth bags would go a long way in doing away with plastic bags, which take a long time to degenerate especially when they get buried under garbage heaps.”

Shal Devi added that, “pollution will also reduce because people will stop burning bags and wastes as they have been doing. Moreover, cloth bags will help in protecting cows and other animals that eat the bags along with the food that people throw away in them.”   

At the same time as Chanda pointed out, “ it is giving the women and girls an opportunity to develop their skills in cutting and sewing and in motivating SHG groups in other communities to take up similar initiatives in their bastis.

Mega Camp for Schemes and Entitlements

On September 11, 2019, during a day-long mega enumeration camp organised by Sahaya, 1222 community beneficiaries were successfully enumerated. In addition, through a Single Window, an initiative facilitated by CFAR and supported by the District Administration and Pune Municipal Corporation, 421 applications for key government schemes and entitlements such as Aadhar Card, Sanjay Gandhi Pension Scheme among others were submitted. “Every citizen has a right to basic entitlement such as ration, voter and aadhar card” – Sub District Officer Mrs. Trupti Kolate

 The need for such a mammoth exercise became necessary post-heavy rains in August this year when severe floods hit many parts of Maharashtra. Agricultural lands were destroyed; settlements were submerged resulting in a high death toll. The living nightmare for many of those who survived was the loss of official documents which are requisite to access benefits under Government welfare schemes.

In a prompt and in a concerted manner, CFAR responded to this crisis in urban poor settlements of Shanti Nagar, Indira Nagar, Katar Wadi, Phule Nagar and Bharat, Pune, through its Sahaya Single Window by appealing to the government to help those in distress. Loss of documents such as ration card, voter card, Aadhar card and need for schemes like Sanjay Gandhi Niradha Yojana (SGNY) and Urban Poor Aarogyadayee Yojana (UPAY) were areas of concern that were brought to the notice of authorities.

To deal with the feeling of helplessness, Help -desks members and community messengers held one day awareness drives across the 5 affected settlements and managed to educate and mobilize around 1400 households about different key social security scheme and their entitlements.

A major achievement for Sahaya was Deputy Mayor issuing a letter to the District Collector to organize mega social security schemes and entitlements enumeration camps. This call to action ensured government departments were actively involved, for better outreach and effectiveness of our camps.

For identifying the real distressed beneficiaries, Sahaya also forged a close coordination  between the affected community and service providers, held continuous follow ups with the officials of Pune Municipal Corporation and the District Collector while updating them about the flood victim’s needs.

With further instruction from the District Collector, on 11 September Sahaya held the ‘first ever’  enrolment camp on key social security schemes and entitlements, as recalled by Dr. Ramakant Sath, President of Anna Bhau Sathe Mandal. “We lost all key documents like ration card, bank pass book, and birth certificate during the flood. This camp was really help full for us, we applied for ration card, PAN card and Income certificate.” – Nilangi Nougire, 53 year old Shanti Nagar community beneficiary

In the process, Sahaya also identified a large number of community beneficiaries who due to discrepancy with the required supportive documents, could not enroll for basic universal documents like Aadhar card and Ration card.

To tackle this issue, Sahaya along with civil society organizations such as Maharashtra Domestic Workers Union, Maharashtra Construction Workers Union, Aashrya, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtkari Panchyat, Yardi and Streewani plan on conducting a follow up meeting with the District Collector to emphasise the issue of exclusion in Aadhar card enrollment and updation. The request to start fulltime Aadhar Seva Kendra nearby urban poor settlement and increase machinery in existing centers of post offices, bank and PMC Ward offices is also being mooted and followed up.


Ms. Battulla, 50 years, Buddappa Nagar

“I am a house wife. I run a small business out of my home, while my husband works for the LPG Gas Company.  We have three children – two sons and a daughter. I have been a member of my SHG for the last 13 years. After becoming a member of the Gender Forum I am able to support the community, in the settlement, to maintain good sanitation.

“Earlier, when we had problems we were only talking to PH Workers or complaining to our Corporator when there was a problem with street lights and water supply because we thought he was responsible for providing us with such services. But now we know who to approach and we are able to talk to senior officials by submitting petitions, as per the procedure. Recently, we initiated the process of providing IHHLs to the Shikari community. As of now three IHHLs have been sanctioned. A letter was also sent regarding street lights and they were fixed in two days. Now we have organized a door to door campaign in the settlement on solid waste management. I am happy to see the change in the settlement”.

Gender Forum Members and Community participating in a meeting on sanitation and health on March 8, 2018

In Anantapur, CFAR is partnering with the Centre for Study, Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), under the Inter-sectionality-Informed Gender Mainstreaming Framework (IIGMF) project in water, sanitation and hygiene (WSH). CSTEP is a non-profit organization which aims at science and technology enabled policy options for inclusive and equitable economic growth.

Under this project seven Gender Forums (GFs) have been constituted in seven settlements with approximately 25 core groups and 35 facilitators, who have been drawn from the community. As of March 31, 2018 GFs have collected 603 sanitation related complaints and resolved 575 problems with the support of ULB and Gender Resource Centre (GRC) across the seven settlements. The complaints are mainly filed through Pura Seva App and written petitions but some deal directly with the ULB and ground team.

GF members organized six (6) slum level meetings between January 14, 2018 and February 22, 2018 and a door-to-door campaign on solid waste management, at Navodaya Colony, on February 25, 2018. They also organized for the first time a meeting that brought together women, girls, Transgender, elderly and persons with disability, at Azad Nagar, on March 8, 2018 on the occasion of International Women’s Day to explore the relationship between different aspects and identities within gender and how sanitation was impacting them. One of the issues that was discussed by the community and health officials was that of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).


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