“A great way to break a taboo is to be vocal about it and raise awareness”- by Raivat Patnana

Before I talk about my experience at Saral Designs, I’d like to tell you about myself. I hail from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and have done my schooling in Delhi Public School, Vizag and a couple other schools. Currently, I’m in my fifth year in the dual degree program offered by the Department of Engineering Design in IIT Madras.

As a part of my academic curriculum, it was mandatory for me to pursue a six-month internship in the field of my interest. For the same, companies from various fields came to my department for interviews. Of these all, I was looking for specific companies which were offering work in the field of product design. Only a handful of these companies were offering this field of work. One such company was “Saral Designs”. As an added motivation, Saral Designs is a Social Enterprise. I have always wanted to work in a Social Enterprise to understand the kind of impact they are able to create through their work depending on the cause. All these reasons led me to take up this internship.

During the course of my internship at Saral, I’ve had a lot of technical and social learnings. I designed various mechanisms and components, sent them for manufacturing, assembled and tested the machines during my internship. Hence, I had to work through complete cycles of design processes. Though I had designed devices in the past, I had never had the opportunity to complete an entire cycle of it before. This was a learning experience; I had to look at the same product through different perceptions at different stages of the design process. In addition, I was working on an entirely new design concept for this company. This was a ripe new avenue for me to ideate and design in. My overall experience at Saral Designs has been enriching and an exciting one.

As this company is committed to improving the situation of menstrual hygiene in India, I’ve learnt quite a lot about menstrual health since my joining. Well, this is embarrassing now. Prior to my internship, I didn’t know what menstruation actually is and how it affects a woman’s body. I remember a vague description from my ninth grade biology textbook where they described the biological process of menstruation. However, I didn’t remember the “word” and there was nothing about the pain it causes, among others. It was an eye-opener for me. Periods are not something people I know openly talk about. Having worked for 6 months in a start-up that focuses on menstrual health, I find myself being more comfortable and understanding of this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, menstrual health is a “hush” topic in India. In 6 months I have become more aware of how my surrounding reacts to a taboo topic like this. Let me share an experience with you that I recently encountered. I went back to my campus for a midterm review about a month after joining the company. For the same, I had to make a presentation telling what the company was about and what my work was. Since the company was involved in the manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins, I took a pad and displayed the product to my class. At once, the entire class started murmuring among themselves, and people were staring at me and the pad in a weird way as if I had committed a crime and was publicly displaying it. It took them a while, but by the end of the day, some of them came forward and appreciated my efforts to break the taboo around this subject. My lesson from this experience: “A great way to break a taboo is to be vocal about it and raise awareness”.

 

 

 

For maximum impact, listen more and speak less – By Anchal Srivastava

Every story, each poem that a person shares, each voice that speaks about menstrual taboo, inspires me and brings me closer to breaking this taboo…

I belong to a business class family from Lucknow (U.P.) and am currently pursuing my M.B.A from Banasthali University, Rajasthan. A few years ago, I realized the urgent need to tackle the problem of menstrual hygiene, when my mother suffered from ovarian cancer in 2012 due to an infection in her vagina because of fluctuation in her menstrual cycle. This made her suffer a lot for 2 years. But she came out stronger from this and recovered completely. It’s not just the story of my mother but, the story of millions of other women in India suffering from the same cause. These reasons drew me to this topic and I wanted to bring about a change in menstrual hygiene management; as it’s a matter of dignity for every woman.

Thus, began my journey in this field. I worked on creating awareness regarding menstrual hygiene with rural women of Rajasthan during my first year of MBA. As a part of my MBA curriculum, I have been interning with Saral Designs, a product driven start-up focusing on designing a better future for menstrual hygiene management by producing sanitary pads of high quality at an affordable price. At Saral, my learnings have only doubled as I have been exposed to the problems at the grass root level. Every day is a learning experience for me and my colleagues play a vital role in this journey.The team at Saral is very dedicated and passionate about the issue and work very hard towards improving the state of menstrual hygiene in India. I work across various parts of Maharashtra to understand the prevalent situation of women on their periods.

Recently I conducted an event on menstrual hygiene day at YTM College of Management and Dental Science, Navi Mumbai. The objective of the event was to create awareness and bust various myths on menstruation. I sat at a corner in the auditorium with over 100 students, patiently observing the crowd and scanning my audience. The students sat quietly with no participation from their side. Even though the students were from a medical background, there was no active participation from their end. They were shy and very uncomfortable to open up about the topic of periods. In the meantime, I was making a mental note of the various activities I can conduct to get active participation from the crowd.  As soon as I went to the podium, I started with an ice breaking game and a video which instantly got the crowd on their feet. I talked about the superstitions behind myths, scientific facts about menstruation and tried to bring light to the misconceptions people have about periods. Apart from creating awareness about menstruation, I spoke about the sanitary pads we, at Saral Designs make – Active Ultra and also distributed a few free samples of Active Ultra to the crowd. The moment I left the stage, people clapped and hooted loudly, that’s when I realized the event was a success.

I was happy that I could inspire the crowd to engage in a discussion on menstruation. I take back this great experience, knowledge from other speakers as a valuable learning in my bag. This is what Saral gave me in just half a month. I look forward to the rest of the  5 ½ months to go with Saral; to learn, to experience and delve much deeper into the world of menstruation and break the taboo!