The British Asian Trust and BT have an ambitious three-year CSR partnership that aims to empower 100,000 adolescent girls across India through innovative tech-based projects.
These projects are improving outcomes for girls during the critical stage of adolescence, across health and agency, education, and economic opportunities. In addition to working with the young girls directly, partners also work with critical stakeholders, and gatekeepers in the young girl’s lives to drive change in behaviour and attitudes to create an enabling and safer environment for adolescent girls.
S.K. Meher is a ninth-grade student at Gangapuri Siksha Sadan School for Girls, in India and an active member of her school’s Child Cabinet – an elected student governing body that mirrors a parliamentary structure of ministries and committees. She takes keen interest in politics and world affairs.
Despite her progressive outlook, like many others she grew up believing various myths and superstitious on menstruation; for instance, during menstruation, she was not allowed to perform any religious activities. In school, she was faced with the issue of disposing used sanitary napkins, often being forced to discard them somewhere in the toilet, to her extreme embarrassment.
When her school was selected for the WASH programme with our in-country partner Splash, there were many issues related to hygiene that were noticed - not enough handwashing stations, broken toilet doors , used sanitary napkins thrown on the floors of the toilets etc.. Once the infrastructure upgrades began, the Child Cabinet organized an awareness campaign with support of the school’s focal teacher – trained in the WASH curriculum by our partner, and the school Headmaster to ensure a cleaner campus.
Meher found the training on menstrual health to be deeply impactful.
She shared that she now changes her sanitary napkin every three to four hours, in contrast, to the previous three times a day. The electric incinerator installed on school premises eased her worry about disposal – no more embarrassment. The training gave her and others the knowledge and confidence to counter the myths and be able to insist on leading a normal life even while menstruating. Meher shared that her mother often rebuked her. However, her friends keep her motivated to fight and keep each other’s morale high.