A female member of the legislative assembly in Mumbai has many times drawn the attention of her fellow legislators by speaking out the unaffordability of sanitary pads by women living in rural areas, daily wage workers and women below the poverty line.
Her name is Dr. Bharati Lavekar, she is the sitting MLA of Versova in Mumbai. She established TEE foundation, an NGO based in Mumbai in the year 2009. The NGO focuses on eradicating issues like female foeticide, sanitation, hygiene, women’s education and gender inequalities by bringing awareness among the rural women.
Bharati Lavekar was born and brought up in Marathwada. She did her Bachelor of Journalism at Marathwada University, procured MA in Political Science and also pursed Ph.D in uniform civil code. She entered politics about 25 years ago, but her spirit has always been that of an activist. She is dedicated to women and child rights which is the core focus area of her NGO, the TEE Foundation.
The 2011 census, which has exposed the worst sex ratio with just 669 girls for 1000 boys in Shirur Kasar Taluka in the Beed district of Maharashtra was perhaps the reason why Dr. Bharati took up the cause of women.Her NGO, the TEE Foundation has adopted the Taluka for three years and started a scheme by giving a fixed deposit worth Rs.5000 in the name of any girl child being born after August 15, 2011. Her NGO managed to show an increase in the girl ratio in the Beed district after so much of work and efforts. She used to have long discussions with the women in those districts which let her understand their issues and know more about their problems
Dr. Bharati Lavekar was once got shocked to know about the various menstruation practices of the rural women in her constituency. They use leaves, old ragged dupattas, and even dirty discarded napkins which extremely disturbing. Statistics show that only 15 percent of the women in India can afford to buy sanitary napkins. This causes severe infections and also increases the risk of cervical cancer. Sanitary napkins are a necessity and sanitary pads are must needed to maintain menstrual hygiene. Statistics also show that about 27 percent of women die due to cervical cancer. It is devastating to know the fact that only 15% of the women in India have access to sanitary pads.
She then for the benefit of the rural women in her constituency inaugurated a digital sanitary pad bank on 28th May, 2017 which is celebrated as a World Menstruation hygiene day all over the world. Donors can donate either in the form of money or sanitary pad and the NGO will sure that the donations reach the women in need.
This Digital Sanitary pad bank acts as a mediator between the donors and beneficiaries. The tribal women can avail the services of this bank without having to provide any identification, but non-tribal women have to register themselves at the bank and can get up to 10 pads a month.
She was the first MLA to allocate a definite amount towards a cause like this. She also played a key role in getting sanitary napkins vending and disposable machines in schools and public toilets.
She says that her next step is to make the disposal of sanitary napkins a talking point and she wants it to bring it under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. An absolute salute for this woman who thought of the hygiene of the downtrodden women. Do visit the website of her NGO to know a few more details and also do your part by donating to this foundation.