Kashmiri woman's journey to empowerment through sanitary pad production
Post by M Peerzada on Friday, August 11, 2023
Srinagar, Aug 10 : In a remarkable tale of determination and entrepreneurship, a 38-year-old woman from Anantnag district in south Kashmir has transformed her dream into reality by establishing a self-sustaining sanitary pad manufacturing unit.
Ridwana Akthar, who once served as a contractual lecturer, took the initiative to start a Self Help Group (SHG) in 2015 with 10 women members. However, it was during the challenging period of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2022 that Ridwana found the inspiration to embark on her journey.
The lockdown presented an unforeseen challenge for women in her community who struggled to access sanitary pads due to restrictions. This pivotal moment prompted Ridwana to envision a solution and she subsequently decided to set up a manufacturing unit for sanitary pads.
Ridwana's determination led her to the 'My Pad, My Right' program by NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), through which she obtained a manufacturing machine free of cost. With the support of the program and her community, the unit was established and inaugurated in March 2023 by the Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag.
Hailing from Narowpora Anantnag, Ridwana's unit currently produces 600-800 high-quality sanitary pads per cycle, which are then distributed and sold in local markets. The venture has not only provided employment to at least 10 women but has also fulfilled Ridwana's aspiration of launching a women-centric business.
She said: "The establishment of such a unit is a necessity in villages, ensuring easy access to and availability of sanitary pads. It is essential to encourage women to prioritize their menstrual health and move away from using fabric." Ridwana and her team are not only manufacturing pads but also actively engaging with villages to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene.
"We've conducted door-to-door awareness campaigns in numerous villages to educate women about menstrual health and hygiene, highlighting its benefits," she mentioned. A pioneer in her family, Ridwana has received unwavering support from her husband and relatives, enabling her to challenge societal norms and lead this innovative endeavor.
With an M. Phil. qualification under her belt, Ridwana is proud to assert that menstrual health is no longer a taboo in her village. The establishment of the manufacturing unit has played a pivotal role in eradicating the stigma associated with menstruation, fostering informed discussions, and spreading awareness.
Ridwana emphasized that their hard work and dedication have earned them a positive response from the community, as people appreciate the quality of their products. She is also actively involved in mentoring her women colleagues, ensuring that the highest standards are maintained throughout the production process.
In a country where many women, especially in rural and underserved areas, struggle to afford sanitary napkins, Ridwana's initiative stands as a beacon of empowerment and change. By addressing a critical need and simultaneously educating about menstrual hygiene, she is making a lasting impact on the lives and well-being of countless women.