A young woman from Srinagar has set a glaring example of social service as she is working on a voluntary mission to stock up sanitary napkins at public washrooms.
From childhood, Irfana Zargar, a 29-year-old woman, wanted to do something for the community but she could not do it owing to different domestic issues.
“One day, when I needed sanitary pads during my periods, I felt helpless. I couldn’t tell anyone. I was also using cloth instead of sanitary pads,” she said.
In 2014 after her fathers’ death, she started a voluntary mission to make available sanitary pads at public washrooms in Srinagar in memory of her late father.
“One day I was walking near a public washroom. I observed that women and girls were in need of sanitary napkins. I thought about putting them in public washrooms as some girls face periods when they are at public places,” she said.
Irfana, who works in Srinagar Municipal Corporation, said many girls face problems at public places especially when they are in their cycles or when they are away from home.
“I gave it a thought and I decided to put sanitary pads in public washrooms. I was putting on the sanitary pads without telling anyone. I used to distribute packs of sanitary napkins free of cost among the attendants of public toilets so that the women coming there could use them,” she said.
Irfana said once she went to a public washroom near Court Road Srinagar where she voluntarily renovated its taps and put sanitary pads there for women in need.
“I also installed a tap water point there. Even I used to clean washrooms voluntarily. To make it a permanent space in washrooms, I thought of making boxes in washrooms to put the sanitary pads and hand washes there,” she said.
“I collected some money out of my pocket for two months. In the initial days, I would spend Rs 500 and buy sanitary pads. I was really excited when I did that. Once, I bought sanitary pads worth Rs 5,000 for public washrooms,” she said.
Irfana has so far identified 16 public conveniences in Srinagar city and she puts sanitary pads there and follows them periodically.
“Even caretakers of these washrooms call me when the sanitary pads are over,” she said.
Apart from this Irfana also visits door-to-door to inform underprivileged girls, orphans, widows and women about the need and importance of menstrual hygiene.
“I have been to many areas of Srinagar. There are still women who don’t know what menstrual hygiene is and what are the negative effects of using cloth,” she said.
In 2019, a video of her went viral on social media platforms following which she got many distressing calls from girls of different areas.
In the same year, Irfana got a call from a handicapped girl from Kailashpora area of Srinagar, who was living with her grandmother in a shabby building.
“When she called me, she told me she can’t walk and asked for sanitary napkins. I went to her home. She was living in an unhygienic room. She told me she faced a lot of issues in getting sanitary pads. After that day, I keep following her,” she said.
Irfana also receives calls from peripheral areas of Kashmir where girls also want to volunteer for the cause.
Irfana recently distributed sanitary pads to a Yateem Trust in Srinagar, where many young girls are enrolled. “I want to appeal to youth, especially the entrepreneurs, that they should come forward to take part in generating awareness,” she said.