Interview with Sashakt Girls
Project Sashakt is an initiative started by Saranya Das Sharma and Aamiya Viswanathan, when they were in Class 11 in The Shri Ram School Moulsari, Gurgaon. The aim of Project Sashakt is to provide biodegradable sanitary napkins to underprivileged girls in the slums and villages in and around New Delhi, India, as well as training on how to dispose of them in sanitary and environmentally friendly ways. Moreover, this initiative will provide them with these napkins, and necessary disposal equipment, free of cost every month. FairGaze got an opportunity to interact with these young girls through our correspondenr Ms. Priyanka Negi. Read the excerpt below to know more about project Sashakt.
How did you get an idea to develop Sashakt?
I was reading an article about the number of girls who drop out of schools in rural India because of improper menstrual hygiene and was shocked by the statistics. I began investigating further and found out that the average woman generates 125 kg of sanitary waste in her lifetime and knew that I had to do something that addressed both these problems. I approached my friend Aamiya and we looked for an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional pads. Thus, Project Sashakt was born.
Do you agree that women’s health and hygiene is important for a better nation?
Yes, we believe that women’s health and hygiene is an integral part of creating a better nation. Women are the backbone of every nation, whether in the domestic or corporate sphere. Therefore, it is essential to ensure their health and hygiene for a better nation.
What kind of obstacles team Sashakt had to face while taking the first step to developing this project?
This is a topic that is still quite a taboo in our society so it was difficult for us to create a way to address the issue of menstrual hygiene in a way that was effective yet sensitive. Moreover, at first, we did not know how to go about funding. Therefore, it was really difficult for us but we got a lot of support from the community around us.
Did you get a support and motivation from your teacher and parents?
Our teachers and parents are an integral part of why we’ve got so far. They’ve given us so much support and have worked with us to ensure Sashakt’s success, even if it means that they had to make personal sacrifices.
Do you agree that general sensitization plays a major role to create awareness among people?
Sensitization is of prime importance, no matter what the issue is. However, especially for an issue like this one, that is such a taboo for most of the people, it is important for everyone to be sensitive because only then can girls get the proper hygiene equipment that they need, which is essential for their health and well being.
As this project is created by a team of two school girls, do you agree that team work put an extra impact on expected results?
Team work has been so important for the success of this project. Our immensely dedicated volunteers have been the reason that we have been able to have such a huge reach.
Would you like to share few ideas through which we can help students in rural areas?
The most important thing students in rural areas need is to broaden their perspective and get rid of a lot of lingering, traditional belief. Education as well as raising awareness on sensitive issues, such as menstruation, will aid in doing this.
According to you what are those factors that restrict female students to pursue higher education?
Traditional and inherently patriarchal beliefs still persist greatly in our society. It’s thought that the role of women is in the domestic sphere and that it is not as important for a girl to get educated as it is for her to be a housewife. As education is expensive and requires the utilization of resources, many parents decide that the benefit is not enough for them to send their daughters to get educated.
According to Legatum Prosperity Index India ranks 92 in education among 145 countries, do you think that lack of educational- awareness among people is the key factor behind it?
Lack of awareness as well as a traditional mindset that does not allow for women to be seen as anything greater than housewives is responsible for this.
Being a team of girls what kind of changes you wish to see in the society?
We want to see people’s mind change, for them to see that girls are capable of doing as much as boys and for them to see that girls are so much more than just their physical appearance and culinary abilities. We want society to be more tolerant, inclusive and open minded.
If the team Sashakt gets a responsibility to maintain the whole education system, what would be its priorities and major focuses on which they would like to work?
We would work on having a higher rate of female enrollment, both at the primary and higher level. Moreover, we’d shy away from traditional rote learning and would teach from multiple perspectives.