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Desai Foundation Launches “Asani Sanitary Napkins” to Employ Women and Encourage Menstrual Hygiene For Thousands in India

May 25, 2017 (New York, NY) — In time for World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th),  community development nonprofit The Desai Foundation, in collaboration with Shantaben Vidhyabhavan, is thrilled to announce the expansion of its “by women, for women” Sanitary Napkins Program in Gujarat, India.  The program which provides training, employment and access to sanitary napkins, is expanding the second branch, allowing The Desai Foundation to reach an additional 250,000 women and girls. The product manufactured and sold through this  unique menstrual hygiene initiative will also now be called Asani Sanitary Napkins.

The program launch is in accordance with WASH United, the organization behind World Menstrual Hygiene Day. The program is also aligned with India’s social campaign Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Gender Equality & Good Health and Well Being.

Based in the Gujarat village of Untdi, The Desai Foundation’s Sanitary Napkins Program has become one of the organizations most impactful initiatives. Women are trained to manufacture the menstrual hygiene products (now branded as Asani), which are high-quality, low-cost sanitary napkins that are 90% biodegradable. An all-women sales team is hired to distribute the pads throughout their communities, creating a self-perpetuating empowerment cycle in which girls and women can take control over their own health and livelihood. The program also provides vital health education in managing menstrual hygiene. This helps to de-stigmatize menstruation, instill in women and girls the importance of self-care, and increases school attendance for girls.

“This is a region where many girls are unaware of periods until the day they wake up bleeding. All the way through adulthood, the taboos around menstruation become a barrier to access and dignity. Our mission with this program is to help women and young girls feel safe in their bodies every week of every month, while also providing employment opportunities that will ultimately impact entire communities,” Megha Desai, President of The Desai Foundation, said.

The Desai Foundation’s Asani Sanitary Napkins program offers two types of employment: manufacturing and sales. The employment opportunities are created for women from 17 surrounding villages near Shantaben Vidhyabhavan.

The manufacturing process employs 13 women per group (64 total women), who operate 7 easy-to-use machines in a safe and comfortable spaces. The sales team focuses on education and distribution of the product to other women in the community.  Think Avon for pads.

“The sales component is particularly important to the integrity of the program, as it is core to our mission of cultivating dignity, jobs and health,” Desai continued. “We do not give anything away for free. The key to empowering people is not to make them feel helpless, but to demonstrate that they are worth investing in. The ‘by women, for women’ approach also ensures that women feel comfortable buying the products in their own home, or in the presence of other women they know and trust. It inspires dignity, self-worth and a sense of belonging.”

The inauguration of this center will be held at the Shantaben Vidhyabhavan School & Community Center, attracting thousands of local women, who will learn about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), job opportunities, and the health benefits associated with the program.

The Desai Foundation is proud to also be affiliated with the WASH United Alliance, which brings hundreds of organizations together with the shared mission of “ending the hesitation around menstruation.”  

“Poor menstrual hygiene management caused by a combination of taboos and stereotypes, a lack of education, and limited access to hygienic products and infrastructure holds back millions of women and girls globally. In India, 50% of all girls have no knowledge about menstruation and how to manage it when they have their first period. Menstrual Hygiene Day, initiated by WASH United and celebrated on 28 May each year, is a global platform that brings together NGOs, government agencies, research institutes, media agencies and the private sector to catalyze awareness and action for MHM worldwide. We believe that a world where every woman and girl can manage her menstruation hygienically, with confidence and without stigma is possible. Help make it happen: visit the MHDay India page and spread the word!” said Nirmala Nair, Managing Director, India, WASH United.

This program expansion is partially funded through the GlobalGiving Girl Fund grant, which — awarded to The Desai Foundation in March — offers financial support for the program until the end of the year. The program is also supported by the annual Lotus Festival in Boston.

The Desai Foundation will continue to expand the program through existing channels at Gram Seva at Kharel, and at HCDC in Talangpur, as well as an Asani Sanitary Napkins launch with IIT, India’s prestigious technology university and a community partner for The Desai Foundation.

To learn more about The Desai Foundation’s Asani Sanitary Napkins program, or to make a donation, visit www.thedesaifoundation.org.

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About The Desai Foundation / The Desai Foundation Trust

The Desai Foundation is a public organization that elevates health and livelihood for women and children in the U.S. and India through grassroots community programming. The Desai Foundation implements health, education and vocational programs that align with the existing strengths and resources of communities. Some of Desai Foundation’s programs include hygiene training, sewing classes, computer literacy classes, science schools, health camps, and a sanitary napkin program.

The Foundation envisions a society where those with experience and resources can empower everyone — regardless of social and economic circumstances — to dream bigger.  Elevating the health and dignity of one woman or child can have a profound impact on elevating the circumstances of that entire family, and in turn, an entire community.

The Desai Foundation has already impacted the lives of more than 300,000 women and children in the U.S. and India.