From assisting million-dollar deals with chartered accountants at KPMG to ‘Anahata for Change’, an NGO for the empowerment of women, East Tanwani has undergone a complete transformation.
The NGO’s initiative “Bleed and Learn Freely” aims to ensure proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities in schools, and urges the Higher Education Department to review the current conditions of school toilets in West Bengal.
It also advocates gender-separated washrooms with proper doors, wash facilities, vending machines and proper disposal of sanitary waste, such as incinerators (manual or electric) and dustbins with lids.
After graduating with a BBA (Hons) degree from Christ University in Bangalore, Purvi joined the merger and consultancy wing of KPMG India.
“My role includes building data books and helping managers with the toil of companies. After a two-and-a-half-year stint at KPMG, I realized that there was not much for me to explore my current position at work. I quit my job in 2018 and returned to my hometown. That same year, I established Anahata with humility. “
Addressing gender issues
Anahata, which means “unhealthy, unstable, and unbeatable”, is an organization working in the field of women empowerment through Self Help Groups (SHGs) to improve and generate livelihood opportunities for women and adolescents. Provides strong training, micro-life development and vocational training for.
With sustainability at its core, Anahata continued its use of resources and switched to more sustainable options to protect the environment. It is also working to address gender inequality by addressing gender issues aimed at ending gender-based violence.
In January 2020, the Bleed and Learn Freely campaign was launched during Youth’s Voice’s Action Network workshop on MHM in Jaipur.
Explaining the idea behind the campaign, Eastern says,
“It has been our general observation that most schools often lack facilities like clean and safe toilets, proper sanitary pad disposal system, hand-washing stations, etc. to manage their menstruation. Most of the times, installed or vending machines are non-functional or non-used. The problem is not just with the availability of infrastructure, the level of knowledge among men about menstruation is also very low. ”
Towards clean toilets
The first thing planned around the campaign was data collection in schools. They decided to convince government schools in their network to interview girls and gather data around the hygiene facilities, practices and knowledge of students from sixth to twelfth grade.
Just before the lockdown, she interviewed 285 students from five schools in West Bengal. She also organized drawing competitions in these schools on the subject of “My Ideal Toilet”, and the students received some amazing pictures of what looked like her “ideal toilet”.
“The campaign has definitely helped us start a narrative around WASH in government schools. We faced resistance from teachers and school officials over tagging the Department of Higher Education. We said that Anahata’s social media handles are used to portray the beautiful portrayal and demand for clean toilet rights in schools. “
Going forward, East wants to complete the survey with 1,500 teenage girls in at least 10 government schools in West Bengal.
“This report will help us reach decision makers in a systematic way. We are also planning to bring eminent NGOs and organizations working in the government school setup to issue this report and support us in reaching decision-makers.”
Through the “Happy Periods Program”, non-governmental organizations also address the need for vulnerable women to find valuable and meaningful work. Employed women come from various disadvantaged backgrounds, with many students and single mothers trying to support their families.
“These women sew cloth pads and also promote the use and care of pads. By giving them employment, we want to give them a source of income, as well as help them learn new skills. We have so far trained over 100 women from various organizations to sew cloth pads and other permanent products. ”
“We started training them to make cloth pads, which look exactly like a handkerchief. These pads were easy to wash and dry in the open. We also advised them to wash their pads inside their house or on the roof, as most of them had small washing areas attached to the house and roof. We soon found that most women started using cloth pads.”
Since the NGO establishment, Anahata has been a part of two major government projects related to the promotion of menstrual health and hygiene. It was the implementing partner for Lalna – a menstrual hygiene campaign designed by SDO and IAS officer posted in Arambagh, where 100 ASHA and Anganwadi workers were given menstrual health and hygiene and 80 SHG women to make reusable cloth pads Was trained.
Another similar project implemented for the SDO of Cooch Behar was Anahata Mission Bandhavi, where it conducted training for ICDS supervisors, school teachers, students, health supervisors and other government officials.