“Every woman and child should have the right to a life free from inequality, cruelty and discrimination.”
On the 4th, January 2018, at around midnight, the Myna team loaded in a minibus heading towards Ahmednagar in agricultural Maharashtra. This marked the debut of Myna’s first outside of Mumbai field trip! Almost the entire team managed to join the trip, and some even brought their children along with them. Women were all very excited but soon sleep came as we drove in the eastern direction.
We reached Ahmednagar in the early morning and were greeted in the International Hosting Centre of Snehalaya with a plate of warm poha. Snehalaya, which means ‘Home of Love’ is an incredible NGO working with women, children and LGBT communities in order to help them find remedies to the inequalities they face in their daily lives, and to enjoy their previously deprived fundamental rights. The amazing Snehalaya team was thus going to be our host for the coming day and night and would show us around their numerous centers; a testimony of their great work.
A very busy day was awaiting us. Among those centers, we visited their radio station, their agricultural lands and training center, their school for the blind dumb and deaf, their home for the children of sex workers, their English medium school, their hospital for HIV infected, their child helpline, their pad factory, their handcraft jewelry center, their nursery for abandoned children …. and even much more! The multi-disciplinary approach taken by Shehalaya was very inspiring for the Myna team, as we strive towards targeting diverse subjects going from menstrual hygiene to women’s labor force, as well as female general health and living conditions.
Therefore, our visit to the field with Snehalaya was particularly interesting and insightful. Like our Myna team, Snehalaya is more than just an organization, it is a true family ‘ united in the belief that no one should stand alone’. Our women had the opportunity to learn from their work. They were particularly moved when meeting the babies in the nursery, and when hearing the stories around their difficult debuts in life.
Moreover, this field trip was particularly important for us at it helped in bringing unity among the group of women working for Myna. For once, they were evolving together in a different setting than our Shivaji Nagar factory or the slums where they go to sell. They discovered the multiple works that the amazing people of Snehalaya undertake, seeding in their minds the working opportunities that exist in life. It reasserted their capacity in standing together for the menstrual cause that they already work for.
After this long day, we enjoyed a meal in the Snehalaya canteen where we shared tables with hundreds of very well-behaved children.
As we woke up after a well deserved night, the Myna women got ready for a free health check-up awaited them in Snehalya’s brand new Hospital. All the women got their blood group determined, their teeth checked, as well as met with a doctor who provided an overall consultation. For some of our women, they were also able to benefit from free medicines graciously delivered by the hospital. For some of our older team worker, such visit proved helpful in dealing with some of their health concerns.
After the medical visit, we grabbed our last lunch in Snehalaya’s canteen and got ready to set off for our next destination: the Prabhat Dairy Industry located in Srirampur.
We took the bus excited to meet our new partner Prabhat, a dairy product factory founded 15 years ago. We were warmly welcomed by Sir Sarangdhar R Nirmal, a self-made man with an incredibly humble nature. When we arrived, we were taken to a conference hall where all the female workers of the factories and the members of the self-help groups of the nearby were kindly waiting for us.
After presenting all the staff, Suhani Jalota, our founder gave a speech about the History and future goals of Myna. Then it was Prabhat staff’s turn to present their progressive social initiatives and express their will to work with Myna in the future. A doctor was also present to give a presentation about menstrual hygiene. She explained the benefits and disadvantages of pads and all the possible methods. The women from the self-help groups were already quite informed about it as they had previously distributed pads. They asked questions about the materials used to make the products, the protocol of production and health related questions that our staff manager, Deborah, happily answered to. It was a very interesting and productive meeting. After this we also had the opportunity to do a conference call with the Mumbai unit team to discuss a future visit and direct collaboration.
Finally, after being welcomed at Sir Sarangdhar R Nirmal house itself for tea and the inauguration of their new program Art of Living (classes of yoga for the female employees of Prabhat) we were surprised with an incredible evening! Indeed, in a beautifully decorated garden, a karaoke activity was arranged. The women of Myna together with the Prabhat staff sang and had fun together in what was a very pleasant night. We all had a great diner together and got to know each other.
Myna Mahila couldn’t be more grateful to Prabhat for this wonderful visit. Everybody was extremely friendly and eager to work together and learn from each other. Plans for the future of this partnership were established, opening the path of extending our goal of providing access to affordable menstrual hygiene products and increasing women’s entrepreneurial spirit to rural Maharashtra!