“Every change begins with a vision and a decision to take action.”- David Bornstein
There is no age to be a change-agent. When many in their college days are confused about what path to take on, Shikhar Shrivastava, founder of Project Saheli, became the padman of Chhattisgarh. Shikhar is a graduate from Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU). He has worked on many government projects along-with working for UNICEF India. While talking with Impactpreneurs, he mentioned that “The real satisfaction is in serving people”. His philosophy in life is, success at work is more work and cure for failure at work is more work. He also believes in the philosophy of Gandhi i.e., “my life is my message”.
India is a country where only 12% of menstruating women use sanitary pads. Menstruation is still considered a taboo here. Project Saheli is an initiative which brings together menstrual hygiene management, skill development and social integration. Under the project, women, who are often victims of domestic violence and social harassment, are trained to manufacture sanitary napkins at an affordable price. This project was initially rejected by seven government departments but was later supported by the State Legal Services Authority (SALSA) at the district level. After it was backed by SALSA, National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) supported the project. The project has been running in Durg, since its inception in 2017, which is also the hometown of Shikhar and as he mentioned: “charity begins at home”. They are going to expand the project in cities like Rajnandgaon, Raipur, Bilaspur.
Shikhar has a team of enthusiasts who want to bring change in the world. The team contacted about 200 women from lower-middle-class families in Durg out of which only 30 agreed, rest rejected because of the taboos and social awkwardness associated with menstruation hygiene. It came as a shock to the team as out of those 30 women, only one woman used sanitary pads. This makes pretty evident that how inaccessible and unaffordable sanitary pads are. Project Saheli offers pads which are 70% cheaper than what is offered in the market and of better quality that is one XL pack (8-hour absorbent) costs INR 20.
NULM helped in setting up the training centre by providing 30 sewing machines. Shikhar also mentioned how women were uncomfortable when he talked about sanitary napkins. So, initially, female volunteers talked about it in the absence of men to make them comfortable. Then he asked questions from them regarding menstruation and encouraged them to come up with queries where he felt the ice breaking between them.
“My family is supportive of what I am doing”, expressed Shikhar while asked about his family’s reaction on taking this risk.
Not only this, they observed that out of 30 women 15 were school dropouts, so they enrolled them in schools and provided them with skill development training, hence, trying to make them employable. These women also bring their small children to the centre where the volunteers provide these kids with basic education. They also go to government schools and create awareness about menstrual hygiene.
When asked about receiving Youth Award by the Chhattisgarh Government, he said, “I was expecting it but it came as an astonishment as it was being awarded by a regime who has imposed 12% GST on the sanitary napkins”.
“Do what you love, love what you do and don’t be sidelined by negative thoughts and failure”, said Shikhar when asked to give advice to youth like him.
Pic Credits: Team Project Saheli