Swastha Bhavishya Phase II
We at Team Moksha, aim at a healthier and brighter future for the children of our country.
Sanitation-related diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera are easily preventable with the right care and basic hygiene, yet result in thousands of deaths each year. We, at the Moksha Foundation, realised that the need for change is imperative. This was the motivation behind kicking off Swasth Bhavishya Phase I in 2014.
Phase II of the Swasth Bhavishya campaign was launched in 2015 with an additional leg to the project—Menstruation awareness among the youth. Due to increasing stigmatization of the issue, we realised this was one area that needed to be spoken about openly.
Hence, our core values at Moksha led us to focus on two key areas during the Swasth Bhavishya Phase II campaign:
1) Sanitation and hygiene awareness
2) Menstruation awareness
In an approach and format similar to the one we took during the first phase of this endeavour, we conducted workshops with around 12,500 underprivileged students across MCD and government schools in Delhi.
“Educate the children, educate the future.” – Esha Lalwani, Director, Moksha Foundation
Sanitation and Hygiene Awareness:
‘India is losing USD 54 billion of its GDP annually due to inadequate sanitation. Poor sanitation and hygiene accounts for over 1,00,000 child deaths in the country per year. ‘- World Bank
Our workshops focused on importance of maintaining personal hygiene as well as keeping the surroundings clean. Open defecation resulting in the grave issue of malnutrition was another key area of focus.
We decided to pass on the information in not only an interactive but also an enjoyable manner with the help of games and exercises. Sometimes, kids danced with us as they narrated the six steps of effective hand washing while some other times we played a game of fetch with them to lay emphasis on how germs travel.
To create a long-lasting impact of our workshops on students, they were encouraged to sustain a clean and hygienic lifestyle throughout. Chosen students who were seen inculcating clean habits were awarded with the ‘Student of the Month’ title with a medal and a gift hamper.
To facilitate this transition into a healthier lifestyle by putting knowledge to action, each school was provided the following:
• 6 month supply of liquid soap
• Soap dispensers installed in washrooms.
We were happy to come up with and implement creative and easily accessible solutions for the children, not letting their day-to-day struggles get in the way of their cleanliness. But in the end, the vigour and enthusiasm of the students made it possible, and helped make the venture a success. The experience therefore was a learning one not only for the students but also for members of our NGO.
Our awareness workshops with young children is thus one of the little steps taken by us, with the aim to deal with root-level, yet widespread, issues effecting India and its growth on an international level. In alignment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a ‘Swachh Bharat’, our vision for this project has been to ensure a healthy future.
“I’m not allowed into the kitchen, I can’t enter the temple, I can’t sit with others.”
“My mom said I must have eaten something wrong. That’s why my periods started so early.”
“Is it true that we can’t talk to boys during our periods?”
“Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.”
“The biggest problem was managing it. It still is. I feel embarrassed, angry and very dirty. Hence, I stopped going to school.”
– Voices of little girls
One health issue which is poorly understood and even less talked about in India is menstrual health and hygiene. Lack of access to toilets, sanitary napkins and even awareness regarding the issue can pose a major health and safety risk for girls across the country. In 2010, Water Aid India reported that only 7% of the women surveyed used sanitary napkins and only 50% of women were aware of their usage. According to Dasra and the Forbes Marshall survey, almost 23 percent of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating. In some places as many as 66 percent of girls skip school during this time and one-third of them eventually drop out.
This problem is augmented by the fact that open discussions about menstruation still remain a taboo, especially in rural areas. In cities, 75% of women still buy their pads wrapped in a brown bag or newspaper because of the shame associated with menstruation.
We at Moksha wanted to create a safe space where a dialogue regarding this issue can be facilitated and knowledge be disseminated. Globally, 52 percent of the female population, or 26 percent of the total population, is of reproductive age. For all of these women and girls, menstruation is a natural, monthly reality.
We realised that it is about time for us to stop hushing a natural phenomenon like menstruation behind brown bags and code words. Like with the Swastha Bhavishya Project, the target group for our endeavour was girls enrolled in MCD and government schools in Delhi, the most effective and urgent target group as they are future leaders of the country who will take this teaching forward.
We sought to create a comfortable and natural space in which girls were educated on-
ii) Know-how of the entire cycle
iii) Menstrual hygiene and management
Poems and interactive videos and exercises were used as learning tools. Resources to smoothen the process of disposal of pads were provided to schools.
‘Na durbhagya hai yeh, na hai yeh paap.
Yeh itna hi zaroori, jitney zaroori hai aap.”
– Moksha Foundation
Dealing with a sensitive issue like menstruation, we realise how hurtful taboos and superstitions can be and have tried our best to leave the children with an open mind. Our aim was to make sure every girl leaves the classroom feeling special and better equipped to navigate through her life. And we can say with confidence that the girls we encountered have the potential of turning into worldly-aware strong women with their broad outlook and eager-to-learn mindset from a young age.
Swastha Bhavishya Phase II was a success. We are proud to announce that we reached a staggering number of people, with 12,500 direct beneficiaries and 40,000 indirect beneficiaries in the form of the students’ parents and friends outside school, as the students were encouraged to share the knowledge gained.
We are positive that our relationship with the schools, students and parents will go a long way in building a community that is welcoming and healthy.