Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar is a Human Development post-graduate, who moved to Chhattisgarh in 2013 for a 1-year fellowship by Bachpan Banao to work with residential schools of Dantewada. Little did she know, her life would change forever and she will continue to work in Chhattisgarh for long time. During her Masters, she applied for a fellowship that fellowship is one of the best things that happened to her. It was a bit odd to go to Dantewada by rejecting a job in Mumbai.
Most important thing that took a woman’s energy and efforts is lack of awareness about own body and health issues! At Dantewada, children were not aware about their own body parts and its functions. There was a lack of knowledge about menstrual health and the stigma attached to the topic. Hence Rajasi started actively working on creating awareness to eradicate these stigmas. Unless our house is on fire, we don’t try to extinguish the fire. When Rajasi couldn’t buy pads nearby, and had several issues in disposal: as both burning and burying were not feasible options. She decided to try reusable cloth pads. She tried the reusable pads herself, and spoke to other girls in her residential school; the girls also showed desire to use reusable pads for themselves. Conducting comprehensive program on gender, menstrual and reproductive health, and sexuality using focus group discussions became her weekend activity at school. It continued for 5-6 months. She trained peer educators at school, who became messengers, and Rajasi saw the ripples even after years since she had left Dantewada.
Later she moved to Raipur and decided to write about this, conduct awareness sessions in both urban and rural areas. She also got to discuss this topic at TEDx Pandri. The TEDx video can be viewed here. The response was overwhelming. Next year, she was invited as TEDx speaker at same place. In January 2017, she moved to Mumbai that accelerated her MHM actions. From then onwards, she trained hundreds of people who became menstrual health educators in their communities/organizations. She has collaborated and worked with ASHA/Mitanin workers, teachers of day-schools and residential schools, field staff of NGO’s, Government officials, etc. She also provided training and guidance to Self Help Groups and some NGO’s to setup their own cloth pad making unit. In Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, she has interacted with different kinds of menstruators such as people with disabilities, trans communities, women in sheltered homes. She wants to make different menstruators visible and included in menstrual health programs.
It wasn’t a cake walk, but the need to work on this topic motivated her to keep going. Now things are getting better but for many years, menstrual health was connected to distribution of pads and convincing people to work beyond that.
In mid-2016, she became part of Green the Red campaign, and from then, she never looked back. Along with that, many individuals and organizations such as Ecofemme, Shecup, Shomota, Jatan Sansthan and many more became pillars of her strength. She always learns something new and finds this work very enriching. One year ago, she launched her initiative- ‘Bleed Red Go Green’ partnering with her friend Mamta Kandari to work in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand. She presented her research papers at a conference organized by esteemed organization ‘Society for Menstrual Cycle Research’. The short papers can be read here- https://independent.academia.edu/rajasikulkarni
Previously she worked as a Project Research Associate at Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas in IIT Mumbai. Now she works as Freelance Researcher. She is working on menstrual health education and sustainable alternatives at different states of India. Her goal is to enable people/organizations/Government in planning and implementing holistic menstrual health management programs.
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