During the pre-COVID times, Tina Gurung would travel between Mumbai and her hometown Kalimpong in West Bengal promoting food and bio-diversity.
But now, Gurung is on a different mission after the nationwide lockdown. She aims to distribute 50,000 sanitary pads among the underprivileged women in the tea gardens in north Bengal and Sikkim.
“The poor menstrual hygiene is a cause of worry, and the issue has been nagging me for the longest time. During such difficult times, buying ration is the priority of low-income families, and that eventually means that menstrual hygiene takes a backseat,” says Gurung.
She is an active and proud member of PadSquad movement which was started by started by Mumbai-based poet and actor Taranjit Kaur and film producer Chhitra Subramaniam to make menstrual hygiene a priority for women and girls hailing from low-income families across the communities in the country.
The model of PadSquad movement is simple and easy to replicate as she explains. A volunteer or a PadSquadder puts up a post on social media asking people to donate packs of sanitary napkins, preferably biodegradable.
These are collected and distributed among the economically disadvantaged women within the Pad Squadder’s locality, town or city.
“My friends who are scattered all over the world, came forward to pitch in after seeing my Facebook post asking for donations of sanitary napkins. We have also received pads from our anonymous donors around the country through PadSquad. So far, I have completed two drives, distributed more than 3,000 pads, and it has been an amazingly humbling experience,” she recounts on her experience as a Pad Squadder.
Currently, PadSquad is active in 23 cities, with 51 PadSquadders, who have till date provided more than three lakh sanitary pads to approximately 50 communities, and the tribe is growing every day.
Buoyed by her distribution drives in Kalimpong over the last few months, Gurung has embarked on an ambitious goal to source 50,000 sanitary napkins, this time around for the women working in tea plantations across Darjeeling, and distribute it during the upcoming Daan Utsav.
Daan Utsav is a ‘festival of philanthropy’ that aims to become a part of the Indian ethos, with the week being celebrated every year covering Gandhi Jayanti by engaging people through ‘acts of giving’ – money, time, resources and skills – spanning the corporate, NGO and government sectors, schools, colleges and the general public.
“These women are the ones who require the sanitary napkins the most. They are poorly-paid, lack proper housing, have no medical facility or paid maternity leaves. The burden of being a menstruating woman in an unprivileged position only adds to the miseries. Buying a sanitary pad is not a necessity but a luxury for them,” she says on choosing the women of tea plantations for the next drive.