Educating women and girls about menstrual hygiene is imperative. Also, it is all-important to provide menstrual products to them. Technology has been waxed with advancement, so there are many mobile applications for numerous activities. Either it is ordering food, dating someone, buying furniture, every such thing can be done through an app. So, the same is available for menstrual products.
Essar Foundation is the CSR arm of Essar Group which has used the mobile application distinctively for spreading menstrual hygiene awareness among women and girls. Essar Foundation has introduced ‘Sahej app’ on May 8, 2020 which not only raises awareness about menstrual hygiene but also avails hygienic products at subsidised rates. It is an Android-based app that promotes a one-stop solution for women to menstruate with dignity.
About the App
Sahej app educates women and adolescent girls in terms of menstrual hygiene. It covers every aspect right from basic topics like ‘What is menstruation?’, ‘What is a pad?’ to providing biological knowledge about puberty among girls, boys and trans people. In short, it provides all the relevant information to the users.
Not only this, but the app also provides contents that break stereotypes and myths that obstruct women from accessing menstrual health. It disseminates information such as interactive game-based learning and easy-to-understand animated videos.
Essar Foundation has roped in doctors to assort various topics about menstrual hygiene. The app has a library of videos that feature information on topics such as do’s and don’ts of menstrual hygiene, when to contact a doctor, disorders related to menstruation, and more.
It also handed over right information to Aanganwadi workers to educate girls in rural India on correct menstrual hygiene practices. Jameela Begum from Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan NGO conducted app demos for women and girls in the slums of Mumbai.
She expressed, “They (women and girls) are learning a lot from its different features. It is helping them with self-development and is creating awareness about menstrual hygiene. It offers much-needed strength and hope by providing answers to their problems. The Essar Foundation and Sahej App are not only creating awareness but are also making the solutions available by distributing sanitary napkins to the women in need,”
To get queries resolved by experts, it has featured text and voice-based chat helpline for users. Currently, it is available in Hindi, Marathi and English and serves women of every age group with special attention to vulnerable communities. The foundation is under work of including more languages, including Bengali, Assamese, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Odiya, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada, along with the Indian Sign Language to help reach more women and girls.
Sahej App also avails a period tracker and an e-store of menstrual products. The store provides sanitary pads, menstrual cups, tampons, panty liners, pee sticks and more at affordable prices to tackle the issue of non-accessibility and affordability of menstrual products. Women-led micro-enterprises and SHGs (Self Help Groups) like Saral Designs and Shri Krupa Swayam Sahayata Samooh, Asmita – a government of Maharashtra initiative manufacture these products.
Apart from this, dispensers, incinerators, and even pad manufacturing technologies are also available on the app. Foundation mainly focusses on women entrepreneurs who are keen to work in the menstrual hygiene space. Ecommerce integration with the app is a long-term initiative of the foundation.
CEO of Essar Foundation, Kaustubh Sonalkar stated, “Promoting menstrual hygiene is our topmost priority at Essar Foundation. We have launched the Sahej app with a vision to revolutionise women’s health and empowerment. It will ensure that women from all sections of the society can lead a healthier life and become more active contributors to the economy. Sahej is not just a menstrual hygiene management app. It is a movement to sensitively, yet assertively, address the subject of menstruation.”
To make menstrual products accessible to young girls and women across all social classes pan-India, Foundation is bucking up vendors to sell their products at discounted prices to fulfil their vision.
Since 2011, Essar Foundation has been working in collaboration with non-profits and local administrations towards various social causes. Now, it has reached out to 500,000 people across 500 villages in eight Indian states in the areas of women’s empowerment, livelihoods and entrepreneurship, education, environment conservation, and healthcare and sanitation.
Sahej is an umbrella initiative to market menstrual hygiene which is launched by the foundation in collaboration with BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) and BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport).
The launch of the app coincided with Lockdown 3.0. so, over 400,000 sanitary napkins were distributed to women in the Mumbai slums and those working with the Mumbai Police by the foundation along with BMC and BEST.
An additional 100,000 napkins were lined up overnight to the district of Devgarh, Jharkhand and 600 napkins across three districts in Kashmir – Pulwama, Anantnag, and Srinagar. Kaustubh further said, “With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many women will have limited access to menstrual hygiene products and services. We hope Sahej will help break geographical and linguistic barriers to equip women with the right information and products,”
The foundation works for the basic changeover. With this regard and to promote menstrual hygiene and remove the taboos associated with menstruation, it has successfully worked with women in villages and semi-urban areas.
It has also provided an abetment to empower the women of Maa Danteshwari Self-help Group in Palnar village in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh to open a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit, and spread menstrual health awareness.
Since 2015, the initiative has been run and managed by the SHGs in the area which is classified as a Naxalite area. Awareness sessions in government schools in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat, and schools in Pune and Mahan were also conducted by it.
Also, it is distributed sanitary napkins and awareness sessions in BMC-run schools in Mumbai, special homes for women and children and slum community children in Chembur, Mumbai. The foundation is working breathlessly by approaching multi-stakeholders to bring its new initiative – Sahej App – to rural women, slum-dwellers, villages in the Kashmir Valley, and other regions.
To promote menstrual hygiene, the foundation has also collaborated with UNICEF India, the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission, NGOs like Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Kavach, Rotaract Club, Myna Mahila Foundation, women-led social enterprises like Saral Designs, and youth organisations like Global Shapers, volunteers from Kashmir alongside the Social Welfare Dept (District Collector’s office) as well as SEHA Health and Hygiene.
It has been bracing up entrepreneurs across states to connect with the platform towards a consolidated effort in eliminating stigma and eradicating period poverty. To spur conversations supporting menstrual health management over social media platforms, it has created Sahej Ambassador with youth advocates within the Essar workforce.