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Student Pad Project Increasing Feminine Hygiene Accessibility In Rural India

One group of Penn State students is working to bring feminine hygiene resources to underprivileged parts of the world through a new organization.

Poor menstrual hygiene is a serious issue in rural regions of India. Twenty-three million Indian women are forced to drop out of school or work each year due to a lack of access to feminine hygiene resources, and just 40 million of the 355 million menstruating women in India have access to menstrual hygiene resources.

In response to this, Penn State students Philip Ratnasamy and Katelyn Rudisill launched the Student Pad Project at Penn State in summer 2019 to help increase women’s health resource accessibility in developing countries and alleviate the global health disparity.

The organization was inspired by the Pad Project but is entirely separate from the national organization. It’s run through Penn State by its 20 members.

Members of the Student Pad Project at Penn State

SPP’s goal is to fundraise to set up self-sufficient, sanitary pad-making sites in rural Indian villages. Women in these villages can produce their own sanitary pads for one-tenth of the cost of pads sold by large multinational corporations. Additionally, these women can sell sanitary pads to surrounding villages to make money for themselves and their families.

“As a first-generation Indian-American, I have made several trips to India during my life. During some of these trips, I witnessed the severe
health disparities that exist for women in rural Indian villages,” Philip Ratnasamy, SPP president, said.

“I learned how many Indian women are forced to use dirty rags while menstruating and are often ostracized from their families and entire communities during their menstrual cycle. Seeing this glaring global health disparity motivated me to help start the Student Pad Project at Penn State,” Ratnasamy said.

SPP is currently working on a production site in the Irula Tribal region of southern India. It’s coordinating with the Praise Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Chennai, India, to facilitate the purchase of the sanitary pad making machine, raw materials, and educational resources for the site.

According to SPP, the Irula tribe is highly impoverished. The site will directly serve 400 women and impact more than 14,000 women in surrounding villages.

The sanitary pad-making site will be set up in Irula Tribal region of southern India.

In two weeks, the machine and raw materials will be purchased, and SPP will fund the site in three-month increments to pay for educational and maintenance support.

SPP has raised several thousands of dollars toward the first site, which will cost roughly $10,000. Donations can be made here to help make the project a reality.

Additionally, the organization is hosting a Student Pad Project free virtual gala at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 17 to talk more about the project with the Penn State community.

“I knew I wanted to help spread awareness about this issue as well as make a meaningful impact in alleviating this issue,” SPP Vice President Katelyn Rudisill said. “By providing the Irula women with access to sanitary napkins and education about the importance of maintaining proper menstrual hygiene, I hope to help eliminate stigmas around menstrual cycles, improve the health outcomes for the women in these regions, and provide these women with financial opportunities outside of their household.”

In addition to supporting SPP financially, the Penn State community can help spread the word about inadequate menstrual hygiene for women in rural regions of developing countries.

Interested students can learn more about SPP by following the organization’s Instagram and attending a weekly Zoom meeting from 8:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Any questions or concerns can be emailed to SPP directly.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a sophomore biology major from York, Pa and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She overuses the ~tilde~ and aspires to be no other than the great Guy Fieri. You can find Colleen filling up her gas tank at Rutter’s, the ~superior~ Pennsylvania gas station. Please direct any questions or concerns to [email protected]

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