The Asani program was designed to address the holistic challenges around women's hygiene and menstruation in rural India. 71% of girls in these regions report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period, while 88% of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in India are unable to afford or access proper menstrual hygiene products.
In the Desai Foundation's operating communities of rural Gujarat, a lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene and a lack of access to sterile feminine care products presents a physical and mental health challenge for girls and women. The problem is rooted in enduring cultural stigmas around menstruation.
The Asani program was developed and launched by The Desai Foundation to de-stigmatize menstruation, encourage self-care, and increase school attendance for girls, in an effort to help women overcome cultural barriers to self-empowerment. What's unique about the program is that the women in the community are the ones who also power the supply chain. Both in production and distribution, The program employs women to make the Asani pads. The women are then trained to sell and educate other women/girls in the community about using the pads. Think Avon, but for pads.
This "for women, by women" approach provides a sense of sisterhood and helps the women feel more comfortable learning about, and using, the pads.
The Asani Napkin is proprietary to the Desai Foundation. It is a quality sanitary napkin which is 90% biodegradable and sold for an affordable price .
The program was strategically designed to empower girls and women to take control over their health and livelihoods. Ultimately, this enables girls to pursue higher education beyond the onset of menstruation.
The vocational training provided through the Asani Napkin Program has a profound personal and public impact. The Asani Napkin Program also works to combat stigma, providing women and girls a fundamental sense of self-worth and self-esteem that will empower them to pursue long-term growth opportunities. With these sentiments in mind, the three main goals of the program are as follows:
1) To create awareness and chip away at the the enduring taboos around menstruation, which are crystallized in rural Indian culture by educating women of all ages about why it's important to maintain hygiene during the menstruation process and how to do so.
2) To inaugurate the Asani Sanitary Napkin Program, made for women, by women into the communities.
3) To build this brand with the women in the communities we serve at every level of the supply chain operation to enhance economic inclusion, opportunity and ultimately a sense of dignity.
In order to educate women and girls in the community about the critical importance of menstrual hygiene and the significance of the Asani program, we orchestrated an event on May 28th 2017. More than 700 women and girls from the villages we serve in Gujarat attended the event and embraced their womanhood by celebrating their right to bleed in an unprecedented fashion. In collaboration with local health experts, social workers, faith leaders and government officials, the event focused on the entirety of the issues facing women and girls and demonstrated the diverse community-wide support of the Asani Napkin Program. The program launch was recognized and touted by WASH United, the organization behind World Menstrual Hygiene Day, who went on to support the program with re-tweets and featured highlights for it's grassroots efficacy and has invited us to officially join their movement for the years to come. The program was also designed to serve India's social campaign Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Gender Equality and Good Health and Well Being.
Looking to the Future:
We will continue to expand the Asani program through existing channels with our impact programming partners: Shantaben Vidhyabhaven in Untdi and HCDC in Talangpur. The Asani Sanitary Napkin program will also soon be a part of the programming which the Desai Foundation facilitates with our community partner IIT Gandhinagar, India's prestigious technology university. The Asani Napkin Program is an all-encompassing program, and we look forward to its expansion and its potential to create waves in social and health reform across the greater region. This program is at the core of what the Desai Foundation is all about - cultivating dignity and allowing women and children to #DreamBeyond.
700+ women and adolescent girls holding signs celebrating their right to bleed (their version of social media) attended the launch event on MHD, May 28th, 2017.
More than 35 women now operate 7 easy-to-use machines in a safe and comfortable spaces while our sales team (of women) focus on education and distribution of the product to other women in the community.
The sales role epitomizes the integrity of the program, as it is core to our mission of cultivating dignity, opportunity and health. The key to empowering people is not to make them feel helpless, but to demonstrate that they are worth investing in. The 'by women, for women' approach ensures that women feel comfortable buying the products in their own home, or in the presence of other women they trust. It inspires dignity, self-worth and a sense of belonging.
Our Digital Impact:
* Our article about the program in Glamour Magazine reached an impressive 9.2 Million readers.
* The Desai Foundation's Facebook posts reached 3,883 people, elicited 189 reactions/comments/ shares and generated 287 post clicks.
* Similarly, our post featuring a video of the opening of our second sanitary napkin manufacturing center reached 909 people, generated 204 video views and elicited 39 reactions/comments and shares.
* The Desai Foundation's posts about Asani on Twitter reached 9.5K total impressions (roughly 861 impressions daily) - 20 tweets, 22 retweets and 26 likes.