Durban - While the movie Padman is creating a buzz in India, local organisations have already started the process of supplying sanitary pads to impoverished females in the country.
Padman, which stars Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor, centres around menstrual health and the need for cheaper and accessible sanitary pads for India’s large female population.
The film reveals that only 12.5% of women in India have access to this hygienic requirement because of the huge cost factor.
Hence, they have to resort to unhygienic alternatives, including using towels or rags during their menstrual cycle.
Inspired by Twinkle Khanna’s (Akshay Kumar’s wife) short tale in her book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, the movie tells the real life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu, who revolutionised the concept of personal hygiene during the menstrual cycle in rural India by creating low-cost sanitary pads.
The movie has since been banned in Pakistan. The country’s Federal Censor Board refused to give it the go-ahead.
Meanwhile, Dipti Kalyan, 31, of Durban North, who watched the movie over the weekend, has started an initiative to highlight all developing countries that share the same problem.
This includes South Africa.
Kalyan said there were currently 2.1million girls, between 12 and 18 years, who were living below the poverty line in South Africa and had to resort to using old clothes, rags, newspapers, leaves, bark and grass because they could not afford sanitary towels.
“Girls who cannot afford pads or tampons miss about five days of school a month, which amounts to 60 missed school days a year.”
“The Pad Drive was born out of a desire to help those less advantaged then ourselves.
"Our initiative is also inspired by local entrepreneur Ramona Kasavan of Mimi Women, who started her own social enterprise to promote girl-child education through the sponsorship of her own brand of sanitary pads in SA as well as the UK-based charity, Binti.
"Their mission is to provide menstrual dignity to girls worldwide.”
Kalyan said the project formed part of the social responsibility initiative of the Shree Parsuram Darjee Association (SPDA), a local Gujarati community body, of which she was a part.
“We kicked off the pad project this month, when a group of us went to watch the premiere of Padman, and launched the initiative via social media on February 10.
"Within two days, we collected 145 packs of pads and have had many people as far as Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg contact us about donating.”
She said the drive would continue until the end of the month and the distribution of the pads would take place next month.
Speaking about the movie, she said Padman conveyed an important message.
“The fact that a male protagonist tackles the so-called sensitive and taboo subject of menstruation is a giant leap for both Bollywood and the Indian community at large.”
She said the movie brought to light not only the myths around menstruation and sanitary wear, but highlighted the fact that the most basic need was so expensive in South Africa, just like in India and other developing countries.
“Due to the cost girls are using the most unhygienic methods, like sand, ash, leaves and newspaper during their periods.
“I believe strongly in the education of girls and women, and knowing that many young girls in our country face the humiliation of missing weeks of school due to their periods as they cannot afford sanitary wear, further entrenched our desire to start this drive.
“Our girls are being unfairly disadvantaged and losing out on precious learning time because they are being denied a basic human right.”
Collection points include the Kendra Retirement Home, Maxwell Pharmacy (Lorne Street), NN Bhagwandas Optometrist (Queen Street), Shrimatis (Reservoir Hills) and Manilal Ratanjee (Chatsworth).
The non-profit organisation, the Hlanganani Foundation, also supports families and individuals in the low-income bracket, the unemployed and those affected by poverty, by supplying sanitary pads.
Sue Barnes, founder of Subz Pants and Pads, that sells patented reusable sanitary pads as well as its CSI extension, Project Dignity, said: “While disposable sanitary products provide a short-term solution, they need to be constantly replenished, resulting in increasing costs and environmental degradation.”
Ramona Kasavan, of Mimi Women, said she believed all women and girls needed sanitary pads for their dignity and confidence.
“With our business, we see the grassroots of South African women and girls struggle due to lack of these essentials. A lack of good quality sanitary pads affects their confidence, dignity, self-esteem and place in society.
“The reports of rags, socks, leaves and buckets are realities of South African girls. It warms my heart to know Mimi Women helps fight a global cause to help girls stay in school and restore dignity among the innocent.”
The movie is currently on circuit.