The Period Society
Setting up an eco friendly reusable menstrual hygiene product network to both provide employment and access to menstrual hygiene in India
A Gaokar or Period Hut in India where menstruating women are quite literally forced into isolation and often suffer through cramps and die of suffocation, snake bites, etc. Women in these villages often use ash, grass, and cow dung due to a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and are treated as untouchables during their periods. Girls who’re forced into Gaokars miss school and are often forced to drop out and married as children.
This is our logo ! We deliberately chose a red blood drop because women do not bleed in blue and part of embracing menstruation as a normal, biological process is staining the stigma !
This is the image of one of our recipients of the eco friendly kit at a clinic catering to low income communities by donating equipment and medical care at nominal rates ! We held a menstrual hygiene education session with women and their daughters where we demystified the process, went over safe menstrual hygiene practices and invited our audience for an open conversation on the impact of the menstrual taboo in their command daily lives.
These are two of our incredible student volunteers Riya and Ishani ! We have multiple ways for other young people to get involved in the menstrual movement by joining our team, volunteering with us, helping us fundraise, and setting up and leading their very own chapter of the Period Society !
This is me presenting the Period Society as a finalist of the Act2Impact initiative at the Harvard Model United Nations Conference India which had over 1500 attendees from more than 150 cities and 15 countries ! We were able to network for good here and received a lot of interests in student opportunities to get involved and collaborations with other organizations.
We worked with the Rotaract Club of Navi Mumbai and the school authorities at this high school in an underserved area on the outskirts of Mumbai to conduct an education session for 150 girls ! We love collaborating with municipalities and local authorities and established NGOs not only to build credibility but to eventually take large scale policy action to spread our work with the support of the government and implement policies to better reproductive health education and access.
This is me with the girls at the session and my colleague Mahek from Enactus at H.R. College of commerce and economics. We partnered with ENACTUS HR College which is a youth run social enterprise and a chapter of the internationally recognized youth entrepreneurship platform - ENACTUS. We purchased the pads which they employed women in rural areas in India to stitch and compiled into a it with soap, and reusable liners to fit into the eco friendly pads depending on a woman’s individual flow !
During our sessions we begin with informal conversations to gauge the audience’s cultural backgrounds and beliefs surrounding periods so that we can ease them into conversation and take care not to offend their beliefs while still reforming the mindset which leads to the menstrual taboo. We explain the biological process via videos and diagrams, and then illustrate good menstrual hygiene such as an iron rich diet and hand washing while always being open go all questions from our audience !
This is us at the stage of Harvard MUN India’s closing ceremonies as the first place winner of the Act2Impact challenge ! Even though we were still relatively new at the time, we’re so humbled and grateful for the recognition of the mission of our project and our work in the presence of 1500+ attendees and dignitaries including diplomats and UN affiliated officials ! We’re excited to grow our project and convene for social change with GenZ to end the menstrual taboo and period stigma in India !
We were so grateful for getting recognition from Harvard’s International Relations Council and their partners in India Worldview global for our commitment to promoting the SDG - Good Health and Well Being ! We will be receiving a $3000 grant as funding for our project and will make the best use of it to expand our outreach and fund the new chapters coming up as per a project proposal! In the past we also received a mini grant as part of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots initiative funding our work
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85, Nassau Drive
New York : Albertson 11507
Phone - +1 5167105718
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Website - www.periodsociety.org
Facebook - The Period Society
Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
215 million women in India do not have access to menstrual hygiene products while there are 23 million girls dropping out of school every year because of a lack of access to period products .Menstruation is still a taboo and topic of shame across India.
Moreover a woman can generate up to 125 kilograms of non biodegradable menstrual waste in her lifetime. This is alarming because a single sanitary napkin takes 500-800 years to decompose.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
To improve access to menstrual hygiene products in low income communities such as red light districts in India, under resourced schools and homeless communities, we purchase eco friendly biodegradable napkins which last for 3 years from Days For Girls - a US organization recognized by the UN.battle climate change, global warming and do our bit for the environment by striving to promote the use of and distributing eco friendly reusable sanitary napkins which are a 100% biodegradable. That’s minimum waste generated, a cleaner earth, and chemical free periods !
We develop modules in world and regional languages to disseminate information about menstrual hygiene and conduct menstrual hygien education sessions in India.
We have a student leader program and are working on creating modules and fundraising guides to enable them to conduct sessions and lead our efforts within their communities.
Battling cultural taboos with cultural sensitivity
Since we have several team members from India, we completely understand the cultural taboos present in India, and can exercise religious and cultural sensitivity when addressing our audience when we conduct educational sessions.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
I personally felt the influence of the menstrual taboo growing up in India for the first 16 years of my life. I was always frustrated by the fact that my parents in health professions never taught me about such an important process that takes place every month in my body and enforced these beliefs because my body was supposedly shedding impure blood every month. I wasn’t allowed to worship, attend religious or cultural events, touch pickles which I could reduce to “yeast” or touch plants because “my hormones would make them rot.”
After a shocking revelation during healthcare internship at the Tata Memorial hospital in India where a female family member of a young boy I tutored in the pediatric oncology ward confided in me that because of the cost of treatment she couldn’t afford sanitary napkins hence she used a rag during her periods, I wanted to improve access to menstrual products.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
This is a short clip speaking of menstrual hygiene and why GenZ must stand up for issues they care about. For the longest time during my girlhood in India I expected people to realize the negative impacts of the menstrual taboo and hoped that my government would stop taxing menstrual hygiene products. However this didn’t happen so I made change making my responsibility after moving to the United States at age 16 to shape the way people perceive periods and access to period products.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
We conducted a session in Kamathipura, one of the largest red light districts in India where many sex workers are victims of human trafficking. During our session a lot of women mentioned that this was the first time in their lives that they understood what menstruation was and felt happy now that they knew it wasn’t a disease. A lot of them were homeless and mentioned that the pads we gave them would allow them to live with dignity during their periods and make sure that their daughters didn’t drop out of school because of a lack of access to Period Products. One woman stayed back at the end of the session and requested us to conduct workshops to teach her how to make the pads to so that she could escape from the brothel where she was trafficked and be financially independent. Our student leaders at the event were also moved by the lack of education that they had bridged that day.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Our project, as depicted in several of the slides attached, meets several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with one initiative showing the interconnectedness of the global goals. Unlike mist other menstrual hygiene initiatives, we refrain from distributing cloth pads and reduce environmental impact and the cycle of dependency by using eco friendly cloth pads which last for 3 years and are stitched by women in low income communities themselves hence giving them a source of income. We also have a unique module on taboos specific to India and keeping in mind our audience’s culture.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
We have so far conducted more than 10 menstrual hygiene education sessions in villages, slums and municipal schools where women use cow dung, ash, rags, and grass during their periods. We conducted menstrual hygiene education sessions for over 1000 women in India and donated eco friendly reusable pads for over 700 women meeting their menstrual hygiene needs for 3 years and serving 25,200 periods !
We have a team of 30+ individuals on a volunteer basis from more than 5 states in the USA and 6 countries ! Our team is aged 14-22 and we’re a proud platform for GenZ to lead the menstrual movement in India.
We have chapters coming up at 6 locations in India including major cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Hyderabad, Vellore and Pune !
We estimate by the end of 2019 to have over 100 students on board and during my gap year I plan to return to India and expand nationwide !
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
We’re currently implementing a chapter model wherein students can open a chapter of the Period Society in their cities or their schools to conduct menstrual hygiene education sessions, fundraise, and distribute period products in low income communities locally.
During my gap year we will also be applying for multiple fellowships and grants to fund our project, and releasing our line of merchandise including eco friendly tote bags and partnering with home bakers to receive a part of the proceeds at pop up stalls.
We’re going to be expanding to the whole of India during my gap year and getting registered as a 501(c)3 non profit in the United States so that we can directly receive donations. We’re also have multiple upcoming collaborations.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations between $1k-$5k
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
Communities of color
Religious minority (non-Christian)
How did you hear about this challenge?
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Nadya Okamoto - Period Girl of the United States and my sHERO !