They call it filthy work, we call it Manuni.
Meet Meena Mehta, who is also famously known as Manuni in Surat, Gujarat.
It was a usual day and I had sat down to take a glance of the newspaper over cup of chaai when my eyes caught hold of an article by my idol – Sudha Murthy. Her article talked about the 2004 Tsunami issue and how funds were being collected for Tamil Nadu survivors. When people all around the country were helping the victims with food, water, clothes and money, Sudha Murthy sent 4 trucks of sanitary napkins. That inspired me and I haven’t been able to stop myself since then.
Meena Mehta is 58 and comes from Mumbai.
I’ve had a fairly smooth childhood. I did my graduation from Jai Hind College, post which I got married to Atul. I am blessed with one son and a daughter. I don’t think I have had anyone who has supported me as much as my family has through thick and thin.
Her family, sitting on the sofa laid out next to us, smiles back.
Her rather ambitious initiative to distribute sanitary napkins didn’t really come easy to Meena as she had earlier thought.
“We began working on this in 2012. We were showered with negative comments and project Manuni was tagged as ‘dirty work’. However, none has been good enough to affect me or the initiative.”
Manuni took off with just 22 schools with support of Naari Grah (Women Protection Cell). It has been over 4 years since then and today Meena Mehta is a proud adopter of over 2000 girls, who receive tini-mini packet every month. Meena explains,
“We initially distributed only sanitary napkins on regular basis to women we figured wouldn’t be able to afford. One day a young girl came up to me and shyly told me how useless the pads were to her and her friends as they didn’t even have an underwear to support it. That is when we decided to come up with tini-mini packs (for young girls) and magical kit (for grown-up girls), that include sanitary napkins, inner wears, toothpaste & brush and soaps”
The society is still indifferent to female hygiene during menstruation.
So much that we were told that parents actually told their daughters to not take our sanitary napkins that we distributed because they were worried what if we stopped giving them out for free and they had to buy. Spending on sanitary napkin is sadly nowhere near their priority list. We ensure that we distribute these packets every month without fail and there hasn’t been a lapse so far.
Ever since Manuni kicked-off in Surat, associated schools and communities have seen a significant reduction in school dropouts.
We do not give kits to girls who don’t maintain a certain number of attendance. This pushes them to attend the school so that they can get their magical kits.
The initiative was also recently applauded by Ms. Sudha Murthi who also donated a considerable amount to the initiative.
One value you live by? I ask her.
Give. Give all that you have, all that you can.
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