Page 35 - MHM Report-2023
P. 35

Cloth Pad Production:

            Entrepreneurial opportunities for SHGs

                   he sudden, pandemic-induced strict
                   lockdown starting March 2020 left many
            Tgirls and women struggling to access
            menstrual hygiene products. Many regions of
            Uttar Pradesh, one of the project area of Tata
            Trusts’ MHM initiative, faced a similar issue.
            The lockdown had severely affected girls’ and
            women’s access to sanitary napkins. There were
            various reasons for this – their movement was
            restricted due to the lockdown; their ability to pay
            had reduced due to their families’ loss of wages;
            and even if they could afford it, shops nearby had
            closed down, shutting off access.                 collaboration. The Trusts team was looking for
                The situation was even more critical among    women willing to be trained to stitch reusable
            female migrants and women in temporary shelters   cloth pads on a commercial basis. Wanting to set
            and quarantine centres. The Tata Trusts used      up her own business, Sheela volunteered for, and
            Community Resource Persons (CRPs) to reach        underwent, the training required to become an
            out to women-led self-help groups (SHGs) in these   entrepreneur. “The Trusts team also took me to
            districts through the Uttar Pradesh State Rural   villages to interact with the women and I then
            Livelihoods Mission (UPSRLM).                     saw that there was considerable demand for pads,”
                The SHGs were roped in to setup production    she says.
            units at the local level. This ensured easier access   There were some early challenges. Sourcing
            and greater affordability for sanitary pads. The   the raw material for the pads locally was a
            first production unit was set up in Bahraich in May   challenge, so Sheela and her husband had to
            2020, thanks to a frontline worker who offered    travel to Gujarat to buy the stock they needed.
            space in her home. The Trusts funded the first    Eventually, Sheela tied up with a wholesaler to
            production unit by providing a sewing machine,    control her costs and keep the pads affordable. As
            raw materials and other resources needed for the   a part of her marketing strategy, she canvasses
            first 3,000 pads. The pads could be reused for up to    in areas where women congregate – like at
            six months and were affordable at `60 each.       panchayat meetings or at local factories that
                Localisation of supply is a crucial aspect    employ female workers.
            in ensuring affordable and regular supply of          Today Sheela is both an entrepreneur and an
            menstrual hygiene products in rural areas. The    employer to a network of sales-girls in multiple
            Tata Trusts’ MHM team regularly partners          villages, hired on a commission basis. Making
            with locals to further this cause, and Sheela     a tidy profit of `1,00,000 in two years has also
            Soni, a resident of Swaroopganj in Rajasthan’s    encouraged her to diversify into other businesses
            Sirohi district, saw a perfect opportunity in this   serving her women clientele.

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