If I had a girl child who was of the pubertal age group, I wouldn’t want her to feel embarrassed about a purely physiological phenomenon. I would want her to face the world with confidence. We have to be alert and sensitive to the needs of the girl child, especially the poorer ones. However in the villages it will take years for parents to appreciate this. Village girls feel extremely delicate about menstruation…
We started installing Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines (SNVM) in many schools in Krishnagiri starting November 2007 as part of our baack2school project, when we learned of a news item that a company had installed a SNVM in a school in Kancheepuram district. (So we really are not the initiators! but there was no need to reinvent the wheel!!). Ms.Amudha IAS was also probably trying the same in neighboring Dharmapuri district. Under the baack2school project we had embarked on a massive project to bring back, track and monitor all out of school children through a web based platform (www.baack2school.in).
We immediately got in touch with the company and installed one machine at MC Pally GGHS, Krishnagiri in January 2008. The machine was based on a spring model which is electricity based. It had a few problems, which had to be resolved. The company representatives did not turn up for the review process. Hence we called an innovator based at Coimbatore (MS. Faraday Instruments) and requested him to develop a model for us. He came back with a model (NapiVend), which we reviewed in April 2008, and based on our suggestions, he came back and brought a highly satisfactory model a few weeks later, incorporating our suggestions. This is based on a dual power mode (Electricity/battery). They were trying a solar-based model also. We found the second model to be user friendly, though I was sure more improvements were possible.
We had to look at ways to take care of the used napkins. It was felt that incinerators should be attached to existing toilets to burn the used napkins; otherwise it would create another health hazard. We were taking steps to construct incinerators @ Rs.1500/incinerator in schools from PTA funds. With the financial and IEC assistance of UNICEF, we trained 680 Lady Teachers as Master Trainers, who in turn conducted block level training for adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Each girl student was issued a booklet on the topic “Take it Easy” in English and in Tamil (Ini Bhayapada Eethum Illai)
The cost of the first model was Rs.10,000/ machine. The second model was around Rs.12,000/machine plus tax. Obviously there was need to evaluate other models if they were available and reduce costs by purchasing in high volumes. In the mean time we tried to get sponsors for the 2nd model for a few schools to assess its user friendliness. We installed one in our Collectorate.
I requested Madam Girija Vaidyanathan, IAS, if she could take this up under the Adolescent Health Programme under the National Rural Health Mission. M’am was extremely positive about the potential of the project to propel our poor girls back to school