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Parameshwari Ranga Reddy Telangana

Parameshwari was the first VLE to set up a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit at her CSC in Thurkayamjal village in Ranga Reddy district of Telangana in September 2017.

With an aim to improve menstrual hygiene of girls and women in rural areas of the district by facilitating access to affordable sanitary napkins, she started the unit with the help of CSC SPV and the women network of 'Shine' NGO.

The unit now employs 15 village women, who produce more than 500- 600 pads on a daily basis. They have so far completed the production of 30,000 napkins. 'Shine' NGO uses its women's network for creating awareness and selling napkins in almost 40-50 nearby villages.

VLE Parameshwari conducted workshops in schools by inviting Hygiene Counsellor Ms. Saritha for creating awareness about girls' hygiene and health. With the help of 'Shine' NGO, she organised sessions on 'Pad Pe Charcha' for sensitizing girls about menstrual hygiene and health benefits of using sanitary napkins.

She organised a camp at Zilla Parishad High School Injapur to make school girls aware about menstrual hygiene, and also distributed sanitary napkins manufactured by her unit to over 200 school girls. The VLE has also set up a box at the school where they store napkins for girl students to take out easily whenever needed. For this unique initiative, hundreds of VLEs from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh contributed Rs. 100 per girl child. She has also kept a donation box for parents/ villagers to support this initiative in school.

Through 'Shine', a not-for-profit organisation set up by Parameshwari, she also works on issues of women's empowerment, social welfare programmes, education, health, and skill development.

Krishna Borude Jalgaon, Maharashtra

Armed with an idea to improve women's health by allowing easy access to affordable and quality sanitary napkins in villages of Jalgaon district, VLE Krishna Borude has started a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit at her CSC in Pachora block of the district.

Krishna, along with four other VLEs - Gokul Sonar, Nikita Sonar, Hemlata Sonar and Anil Sonar - formed a self-help group named 'Human D e v e l o p m e n t Foundation (HDF) CSC'. The SHG monitors the working of sanitary napkin manufacturing unit. The unit manufactures 500-600 sanitary napkins on a daily basis.

She has employed eight women from marginalised communities, who were given prior training of manufacturing sanitary napkins by CSC. These women have also been made digitally literate under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) by VLE Krishna to make them aware of the emerging opportunities and enable them to access various e-governance services. These women have now become self-reliant and are leading a life with dignity in the society.

Besides, in order to make girls and women aware of hygienic practices during menstruation, instead of conventional methods which affects their health, the SHG also carries out awareness drives at girl's schools, colleges and women's social organisations. They also distribute free sanitary napkins to girls in schools and colleges.

In a unique initiative, considering the hesitation faced by women in rural areas in purchasing sanitary napkins from shops manned by men, the group has set up a vending machine, whereby women can get napkins by putting Rs. 5 coin in the machine. They are also in the process of placing this machine in the girls' hostel.

The group has also been running awareness campaigns in rural areas through road shows, persuading women to abandon unhygienic ways of menstrual hygiene and adopt eco-friendly sanitary napkins.

Bathula Manju Ranga Reddy, Telangana

VLE Bathula Manju has overcome all odds to embark on a bold path to bring about extraordinary change in the lives of girls and women of her village who have long suffered due to societal taboos and cultural stereotypes regarding menstruation.

Keeping in mind the problems faced by adolescent girls and women in rural parts of the society due to use of unsafe products during periods, Manju took up responsibility to improve their menstrual health by providing them sanitary napkins, which are both hygienic and affordable in their vicinity.

With the assistance of CSC SPV, she established a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit (MMU) at Balapur village in Ranga Reddy district of Telangana, to manufacture affordable, hygienic and eco-friendly sanitary pads. Her MMU has also provided employment for 20 village women, who apart from earning their livelihood have also become agents of change in their society.

Manju's MMU manufactures 1300-1400 napkins on a usual day. So far they have manufactured more than 18,000 napkins, with each piece costing Rs. 5.

In this quest to make girls and women start using these hygienic pads, Manju and her team have been running intensive awareness programmes in schools college and other educational institutes with the help of Gram Panchayat, ASHA and Anganwadi workers. They have organised special awareness camps on menstrual hygiene in slum areas and also distributed free napkins to tribal girls and women to let them realise the benefits of using hygienic napkins.

In addition to this, Manju has been organising awareness camps on breast cancer for women in her village through the help of 'Bharosa' project of the government of Telangana. For her contribution to the society, Manju has become a role model for the villagers.

Aarti BehraAngul, Odisha

The onset of menstrual periods is a normal part of women's life. However, ignorance and cultural taboos make this a hushed up affair, leading to misinformation and misconceptions about it among women and girls. Lack of access to safe menstrual products or private space forces women and girls to stay at home and lose productive hours on certain days of the month.

In order to tackle these issues related to menstrual hygiene in Angul district of Odisha, VLE Aarti Behra, inspired by CSC's 'Stree Swabhiman' initiative, has set up a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit in her village Kumanda of Banarapal block.

With the unit, Aarti aspires to make available quality, hygienic and affordable sanitary napkins to villagers in rural areas of the district to liberate them from poor menstrual hygiene, which results in health complications, infections and cervical cancer.

Along with manufacturing sanitary napkins, she is creating awareness among women regarding menstrual hygiene and benefits of using sanitary napkins by organising camps at her CSC, schools and Anganwadi Centres and conducting door-to-door visits in the villages. To run the unit, Aarti has employed seven women from her village. They have started making around 300-350 pads in a day, after receiving a two-day training on the manufacturing unit by the CSC team.

With increased awareness about menstrual hygiene and access to quality sanitary products, women and girls in the villages of Angul are now increasingly opting for sanitary napkins, thereby witnessing a positive change in their lives.

Jatin PatelAnand, Gujrat

'Stree Swabhiman', CSC's movement for ensuring women's health and hygiene in rural India, has witnessed unprecedented response in the western state of Gujarat with a number of VLEs coming forward to become part of this social enterprise by setting up sanitary napkin manufacturing unit in their villages.

One of them is Jatin Patel, who is known for his commitment to social causes in the remote areas of Anand district. Inspired by CSC SPV's latest initiative, Jatin set up the sanitary napkin manufacturing unit in Maltaj village of Sojitra block.

Jatin's unit employs seven women workers, who have been technically trained by CSC to manufacture napkins. The unit now produces 300- 400 pads per day. Through this unit, these women who were so far unemployed now support their families with their earnings.

As the unit started functioning, Jatin received huge response from girls and women for sanitary products. He has already received booking order for 25,000 napkins and has procured raw material for manufacturing 50,000 pieces.

"Earlier girls were unable to attend school during periods for lack of knowledge, misconceptions and lack of access to sanitary products," says Jatin. To break this taboo, he ran an intensive awareness drive in the villages of the district to make girls and women aware of their health rights. With the help of members of self-help groups, ICDS department, NGOs, and Anganwadi and ASHA workers, he conducted awareness campaigns around the region.

Following the campaign, women and girls are increasingly becoming health conscious, adopting sanitary napkins and abandoning old methods which curbed them from optimally utilising their potential. They now are comfortable talking about their menstrual health, which was earlier considered disrespectful.

Shamsher AliMaharajganj, Uttar Pradesh

Taking CSC's 'Stree Swabhiman' project one step ahead, VLE Shamsher Ali, along with 10 other VLEs, has set up a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit for providing affordable and hygienic napkins to women and girls in rural areas of Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh.

Shamsher Ali and ten other VLEs have gotten together to form 'Maharajganj Gram Star Udyami Social Welfare Society' for effective and efficient i m p l e m e n t a t i o n of the initiative. Other members of the society comprise Inamullah Siddiqui (President), Abhishek Tripathi, Pradyuman Prasad, Shaklen Ahmed, Jallauddin, Saeed Imam, Upendra Kushwaha and Krishna Kumar Singh.

The members of the society took up the challenge to ensure access to better health practices to each and every girl and woman of the society, by providing them access to sanitary napkins at the lowest price in their vicinity.

With this, they have not only helped improve quality of life of women in the region, but also provided employment opportunities to seven women workers at the manufacturing unit, which produces 600-700 napkins in a day.

In rural areas, any discussion on menstrual health is considered a social taboo, owing to which girls and women end up using unhygienic methods, exposing themselves to various health complications.

To bring about a behaviour change in the community, the society has been spreading awareness about use of sanitary napkins among girls and women by involving ASHA and Anganwadi workers in workshops and awareness drives. The society has also resorted to social media and local newspapers to spread awareness and eradicate the myths concerning the subject.

KiranKrishna, Andhra Pradesh

In rural India, lack of access to safe menstrual products impacts millions of girls and women. Girls miss school and women work, limiting them from exploring their full potential and impacting their all round development. Women and girls also suffer from health issues compounded by use of unsafe products during menstruation.

Kiran took up the challenge to free women and girls of his village from the vicious circle of disease and regressive practices pertaining to their menstrual health. He started a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit (MMU) at his NGO in Krishna district of southern state of Andhra Pradesh under CSC's project 'Stree Swabhiman'.

Kiran's manufacturing unit employs six women workers, who are happy to get work near their residence to support their family. The unit manufactures 400-450 napkins in a day.

To tackle the rampant myths and misconceptions about menstruation, Kiran conducts door-to-door visits to make people understand the scientific aspect of menstruation and benefits of using sanitary pads.

With the help of ASHA and Anganwadi workers, Kiran organised several awareness programmes, workshops and lectures in villages for making women and girls aware of the benefits of using sanitary napkins. They also distributed free napkins to girls in schools. Under Janmabhoomi programme of Andhra Pradesh government, Kiran conducted extensive sensitisation programme across the region to change the outlook of people towards menstruation and sanitary napkins.

Swathi V.K.Bengaluru, Karnataka

CSC's initiative 'Stree Swabhiman' to ensure women's health and hygiene has triggered a metamorphic change across rural India, with Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) playing a substantial role in galvanizing the movement. Swathi V.K. is one such VLE who has dedicated her efforts towards this social cause for uplifting the lives of girls and women from poor communities of Bangalore, who become prey to various infections due to use of unhygienic products during periods.

Swathi has started a sanitary pad manufacturing unit at her CSC at Hebbal in Bengaluru, Karnataka, to enable girls and women easy access to quality sanitary products at reasonable rates.

Swathi, who joined the CSC ecosystem last year, plans to employ 4-8 women for manufacturing napkins which will give employment opportunity to women from poor background for earning their livelihood.

Apart from this, she also provides various services including Aadhaar enrolment and update, certificates of caste, income and residence, FASTag service, FSSAI license and PAN Card.

Om Kumar PandeyRanchi, Jharkhand

Om Kumar Pandey's CSC story reflects his great vision and passion towards entrepreneurship in rural India. In year 2012, he started working as a VLE in Tatisilwai panchayat of Namkum block, Ranchi. Masters in Journalism, Om Kumar Pandey worked very hard for his CSC. He quickly adapted to the CSC ecosystem and developed the IT skills necessary for CSC operations. Today, he is successfully running the CSC and delivering all the services of CSC, like PAN Card, Passport, various certificates, electricity bill, insurance, education services, train and flight tickets, etc. VLE Om Kumar says, "As the eldest child in the family, I wanted to help my family financially. My father Ved Byas Pandey, younger brother Rohit and wife have supported me in every decision. CSC is my pride."

Om Kumar is part of CSC's 'Stree Swabhiman' project in Jharkhand. He says, "For a nation like India where majority of its population resides in rural areas, such an initiative will be very beneficial. Many women in the rural parts of our country do not have access to hygienic menstrual facilities. Women and girls refrain themselves from social gatherings while on their menstrual cycle. Stree Swabhiman initiative of CSC SPV can surely work wonders for these women."

Through his CSC, benefits of various welfare schemes are now reaching the villagers of Tatisilwai. Besides, having a CSC nearby is helping them meet their service requirements on time and in a cost effective manner. Due to his entrepreneurial skills, the VLE has become an example for young generation in Tatisilwai.

Moushmi GhatwalRamgarh Cantt, Jharkhand

Moushmi Ghatwal set up her Pragya Kendra in May 2017 at Ramgarh Cantt, Jharkhand. With her proactive efforts in enabling delivery of services through CSC, she acquired recognition for herself not only from her own village but also nearby areas of Ramgarh. People visit her CSC from far remote areas to avail various services. Today, the main services being delivered from her centre are Aadhaar and PMGDISHA.

VLE Moushmi's family provided complete support to her in ensuring smooth operationalization of CSC. She gives credit for her success to her family and CSC SPV. Before setting up her CSC, people had to travel long distance to avail public and private services. In a very short span of time, CSC in their neighbourhood is rapidly changing lives for these people. They could now avail the services at their doorstep. She further adds, "People in Ramgarh area, Jharkhand know me because of my Pragya Kendra. Through CSC, I have got the opportunity to serve my people."

The VLE has joined "Stree Swabhiman" project to help adolescent girls and poor women have access to affordable sanitary napkins. She also plans on empowering the women and girls to seek menstrual hygiene products. VLE Moushmi says: "This initiative of CSC SPV is wonderful. The sanitary napkins are at a much reasonable cost than others and also environment friendly. Given the increasing levels of damage to the environment, there is an urgent need to improve access to eco-friendly napkins."