MAM

Stayfree India launches #ProjectFreePeriod

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MUMBAI: While Stayfree is a feminine hygiene brand, it believes that its purpose is to help women and girls make each day count, as they move toward their dreams.

Which is why the efforts of Stayfree is not just to normalise period days, but to encourage women to nurture their dreams of progress. No matter which section of the society she belongs to, whatever be her age or her community. And that brought into focus a community that had a completely different outlook toward their periods.

https://www.facebook.com/StayfreeIndia/videos/1824183327601459/

While almost every woman dreads her period days, there were women who looked forward to it. For whom their period was the only respite from the lives they were being forced to lead.

These are the women of the sex trade. While the belief is that these women need to be rescued from this trade, the truth is that they will struggle to find other ways to sustain themselves. And so even the rescued ones often return and are plunged even deeper into this world of exploitation with their period days often being the only days of the month that they get for themselves. The DDB Mudra Group and Stayfree India thought this forced break could be a way to help these women cultivate their own #DreamsofProgress.

And so was born #ProjectFreePeriod. Through collaborations with professional skill trainers, a vocational training programme was created to equip these women with skills that could help them sustain themselves outside of the sex trade. While finding relevant skills was the easy part, the challenge was to condense them into three-day training modules so that the three days of their periods could be turned into three days of learning.

And finally, in January, with the help of Prerana, a local NGO, the first edition of #ProjectFreePeriod was launched in the red light district of Mumbai. In the workshops since, over 30 women have been a part of this programme and have been taught skills that range from candle-making, embroidery, henna-art, soft-toy making to a basic beautician course. There shall be stalls put up in flea markets and malls to display the products of their newly acquired skills; to create more awareness and support for this initiative.

The project now runs through the month and has a consistently expanding curriculum of skills. So much so that the women are finding ways to make more time to learn and hone new skills. Through recruitment drives on social media, the initiative has also put together a database of volunteers to keep scaling up this project.

The plan is now to take the training out of the classrooms, for both the women and the trainers; through simple instructional videos that can be shared through WhatsApp.

As the initiative is spreading its wings, Stayfree India and the DDB Mudra Group are aiming to partner with other non-profit organisations to replicate this model and access a wider database of students.

DDB Mudra Group national creative director Rahul Mathew says, “To go from normalising periods in the lives of women to using periods to normalise the lives of women in the sex trade; is a great example of the kind of power and influence brands can wield. Project Free Period turns the period from a pause to an opportunity, for these women to sustain a life outside of the trade.”

Prerana project manager Mugdha Dandekar mentions, “This project brings a chance for the women in the red-light areas to step out of the exploitative lifecycle. Uneducated and with no income security, such an opportunity to learn an alternative vocation is crucial. Working in the red-light areas of Mumbai, we often see such initiatives in practice, but this considers the comfort and convenience of our women. The women have chosen the days they would like to come for the training, so that it doesn’t disrupt their lives. The change has to be gradual, not on weekly or monthly basis, and this project understands that. Therefore, we see a strong commitment from our women to hold onto this opportunity and give change a chance.”

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