She and India Foundation was started with the aim to serve the rural women and adolescent girls of Marathwada. Growing up in this region, the founders witnessed a dearth of facilities available to the people around them. The idea behind the Foundation was to educate and sensitize women and young girls. Initially, SAI undertook social awareness campaigns on various topics such as menstrual hygiene, female feticide, general health, hysterectomies, legal literacy and domestic violence.
While doing this primary work, we realized that most women and young girls were unaware of the resources available to them and hence unable to resolve long-standing problems. It also became glaringly clear that we needed to focus on two aspects – Legal Awareness Camps and Health Camps.
Most people in the rural area seek medical intervention only in emergency situations. The limited availability of medical resources and a perineal cash-crunch in a predominantly agrarian society of Marathwada makes ‘wellness’ a rather alien concept. While carrying out our social awareness campaigns the need for access to healthcare was highlighted by women who were hesitant and unwilling to turn to family members regarding any health issues they faced. We have time and again witnessed how families have borrowed money at high rates of interests, sold their belongings and land to cover medical costs. A combination of these problems prompted us to organize free healthcare camps such as: –
1. General health screening camps
2. Breast and cervical cancer screening
3. Eye screening camp
4. Bone density check-up
Legal Awareness Camps
Our interactions with the local women and girls made it clear that most of them were not aware of their legal rights and privileges. To address their concerns and educate them about their rights, SAI conducted several awareness camps touching on subjects such as property rights, domestic violence, female foeticide, right to education, laws against dowry and sexual harassment.
We conducted these camps in groups of 20-30 in partnership with independent lawyers and social activists. So far, we have conducted over 60 camps.
Menstrual Hygiene Awareness
Periods, poverty and pads – the three P’s that carry a social stigma and prevent half of India’s population from truly accepting themselves.
Rural women and adolescent girls are perhaps the most vulnerable and ignored, in the rural setup. While carrying out our social awareness initiatives we realized the stigma and shame attached to menstruation in rural areas leading to complete isolation of women during those periods. Most young girls and women in India are either not aware of the different menstrual hygiene products available in the market or are unable to afford them. Consequently, they resort to using hay, ash, grass or dirty rags during their menstrual cycles resulting in major health risks such as UTI, reproductive tract infection and even cervical cancer in some cases.
In order to educate and help women understand menstrual health we periodically conduct menstrual hygiene awareness camps with the assistance of social activists and local doctors of the area.