Rashmi Saha: A Woman on a Menstrual Hygiene ‘Mukty Mission’
“Each time a woman stands for herself, she stands up for all women”
International Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on May 28 every year. Although there’s a growing awareness about the need to practise hygiene habits during menstruation, women in far-flung and remote areas are yet to join the mainstream. For them and the society around them ‘Periods’ is still a dirty word. A menstruating woman is still considered impure and discussions about it are a taboo. No wonder many women suffer in silence as they are unaware of sound menstrual hygiene practices and the result is they suffer from many diseases such as fungal infections, Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) and Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and in many cases infertility too.
Rashmi Saha is one woman who is on a mission to change things for the better. She has founded ‘Mukty Mission‘- an NGO, to raise awareness and educate women on proper sanitary practices during menstruation. She has been working relentlessly in one of the most backward areas of Jharkhand. It is our pleasure to speak with this tenacious woman.
BV: Please tell us something about yourself and your background.
Rashmi: I am a civil engineer by education, with my own share of experiences in a field which was not very women friendly 10 years back. Professionally, I am a Behavioral Coach engaged in educational and corporate projects who travels the length and breadth of the country. I am a passionate and full-time foodie and a poet by heart.
BV: How did you conceptualize Mukty Mission? What are its mission and vision?
Rashmi: It was my personal challenges that I faced as a growing, independent woman and the ones that I observed around me, while I traveled to different parts of the country (mostly the interiors) that encouraged me to work on the enrichment of the condition of women nationwide.
‘Mukty’ means freedom in Hindi and that explains our mission which is to free women of societal shackles and empower them. Through this organization, I plan and aim to motivate women to attain a holistic freedom– Freedom of thoughts, education, health and physical issues.
BV: Why did you choose menstrual hygiene awareness as a cause? How do the women of Jharkhand fare on the level of awareness?
Rashmi: While my extensive travelling schedule for my work and pleasure has exposed me to different situations and challenges of people, I realized Hygiene conditions were going through a major set back. But at least people were vocal about it and institutions were working around it. What concerned me, even more, was the condition of menstrual hygiene as an awareness issue even as a traveler, especially in remote villages of hilly and arid regions. Unavailability of sanitary pads was the most alarming thing that I faced and of course, the shortage of water and proper sanitary pad disposal system got me thinking and I decided to work for this cause.
Jharkhand is a state that is growing at an amazing pace, people are cautious and progressive, yet, the education and awareness surrounding menstruation need to reach the rural parts.
BV: Tell us something about the wonderful work that you do at Mukty Mission. Are there any challenges that you face and if yes, how have you overcome them?
Rashmi: Through Mukty Mission, we plan to reach out to as many women and young girls as possible in the villages and schools, conducting workshops. In these workshops, we majorly focus on ‘Talking’. Talking about periods is unfortunately still a challenge. Next, we discuss the various aspects of sanitation and menstrual hygiene, providing encouragement of buying and using a sanitary pad as well as understanding the Taboos and accepting menstruation as a part of our metabolism rather than an impurity. A lot of discussions, role plays and storytelling is involved . We plan on making the sessions more interactive and impactful.
BV: There’s a lot of talk and action going on about menstrual hygiene issues. Have you seen any changes in the attitude of people towards this issue which many consider a taboo?
Rashmi: A lot yes but it is still less. Yes, I have seen and experienced the attitude of people changing towards periods. Especially, as a part of my professional journey, I keep meeting the young crowd a lot and see that unlike our times, ‘Period Talk’ is no more just ‘Girl Talk’. Even the boys don’t shy away from discussing /contributing to Menstruation related issues.
Moreover, I have seen a few women in certain villages in Jharkhand who are quite bravely and openly dealing with the idea of menstruation. I feel lucky to have come across such people. They are my true motivation behind this mission.
BV: What are your future goals with regards to Mukty Mission? Is there something you aspire to do?
Rashmi: As I mentioned earlier Menstrual hygiene is the first phase of my idea and work. In my next phase, I plan on working on a few other serious issues related to women, which have been ignored in the past. Also, having been associated with the educational field for a long time now, I plan to work for Supplementary Development of rural kids who have potential but lack opportunities.
BV: Tell us about your achievements and accomplishments as a crusader for women rights and dignity.
Rashmi: I feel privileged that in this short journey, Mukty Mission has been recognized and acknowledged by many institutions in Jharkhand such as Vinoba Bhave University, Radio City, Dainik Jagaran and a few local entrepreneurial societies. Also, for a magazine like BananiVista to cover us is yet another milestone in our journey with Mukty Mission and I feel blessed. This is an immense form of encouragement for me and will drive me to reach out to more people in a more impactful way, trying to bring in a little change in the society.
BV: Any piece of advice for people who would genuinely like to make a difference in the society?
Rashmi: First of all I would like to congratulate them for concurring this very first step of making a difference, i.e, “Planning to work to make a difference” itself !! Because honestly the majority of us, because of various reasons are not even able to reach this stage. We, as people, either end up complaining, cribbing or just making peace with the problems accepting it as it is. The courage of every one of us, whoever is planning /deciding /working to create a difference is respectable. It would need a lot of courage in the coming time, a lot of challenges and failures. The idea is to stay strong, work on being impactful and keep things going, no matter how. Good Luck !!