This inspiring story was distributed by IANS (Indo-Asian News Service) in October 2017 and published in various forms online. We wanted to publish excerpts from it here in the IDS blog because the two young women in this story grew up in an orphanage run by Borderless World Foundation (BWF), a Pune-based NGO that helps with the socio-economic development of people in border areas. BWF has received IDS funding since 2017.
Kupwara, (Jammu and Kashmir): Growing up in a society that stigmatises menstruation, two women social entrepreneurs in this border village of Jammu and Kashmir are battling the taboos attached to this routine biological process. They are not only creating awareness but also manufacturing and selling sanitary napkins to help poor women who cannot afford branded products.
Mir Musharraf, 18, and Mubeena Khan, 25, who grew up in an orphanage, began their entrepreneurial journey two years ago, knowing well the arduous task they had chosen for themselves. . . .
The girls grew up in the orphanage that not only sheltered and fed them but also equipped them with entrepreneurial skills to be the agents of socio-economic changes in Kupwara — an area where an estimated 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. . . .
Ms Khan had always felt perplexed about the treatment women got during their menstrual cycles. They are not allowed inside kitchens, they are not allowed to pray, they become untouchables during their periods.
“When we get our first period, our mothers generally hand us a bunch of rags with strict instructions that we should not talk about it openly and stay away from the rest of the family,” she said.
“Imagine when we set out to talk about this openly. I remember how people, in fact girls, used to whisper about our ‘shamelessness’. But nothing would stop us.”
The two girls have conducted hundreds of awareness camps in schools, colleges and community centres talking about the issue.
The next step was their own self-empowerment and the empowerment of as many women as possible in their extended neighbourhood.
Eventually, they spoke with the Borderless World Foundation and shared the idea of setting up a cost-effective sanitary napkin manufacturing unit in Kupwara.
They began researching on the Internet, reading about their proposed business — before travelling to NIRMA Industries training centre in Solapur, Maharashtra, where they were incubated for three months and taught how to handle machines, grinders and other nitty gritty of the business by experts. . . . click here to read the complete story.