The very mention of Dantewada brings the Naxal problem to the forefront, but now the winds of change are blowing, and the effect of that is clearly visible among women here. The women here run e-rickshaws, prepare goods from forest produce, and they have started showing a lot of awareness on health as well.
In Dantewada district of remote Naxal-affected South Bastar, women have become aware not only of their health, but of other women in the fraternity.
The state government has started an effort to bring awareness of health and hygiene among the women of Vananchal region through the 'Respect for Women' campaign. The objective of the campaign is not only to provide sanitary pads to adolescent girls and women, but also to make them aware of various misconceptions about menstruation and get rid of serious diseases.
By joining the campaign, the women of the group are not only providing support to their families by earning income from the manufacture of sanitary pads, but are also making them aware by distributing free sanitary pads to adolescent girls and rural women.
About 45 women work in sanitary pads in five centres set up in collaboration with the district administration and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). The women engaged in the work of making sanitary pads are also getting a monthly income of about Rs 3,000-4,000. Sanitary pads made by them are being provided free of cost to girls studying in ashrams and hostels, schools and POTA cabins.
About 4,000 women of self-help groups are involved in this program along with employees of Women and Child Development Department, Health Department. About 11 thousand sanitary pads are manufactured in these five centres every month.
In view of the success of the programme, the centres are now being expanded. Anita Thakur, a member of Maa Danteshwari self-help group, said, "We make sanitary pads through the village organization of the district. 10 women from eight groups associated with village organization make sanitary pads. These women provide sanitary pads in two panchayats - Balud and Chitaloor. These pads are given free of cost to rural women."
Nikita Mercam, chairperson of Nayi Disha Women's Self-Help Group, said that a total of 12 women had taken training to make sanitary pads. 10 of them are engaged in making pads. These women are very happy to get employment in making sanitary pads.