Sunolo Sakhi: India radio show offers menstrual hygiene information for girls

A new radio show is sharing knowledge on menstrual hygiene to young girls and women in the slums of Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Aiming to spread awareness and break taboos, especially in slum areas, Sunolo Sakhi has been designed to take the first steps in educate people about menstrual hygiene. Holding a live phone-in show in a local community radio helps to bring young girls to a discussion platform and get the information that they need.

This is an innovatively designed intervention using traditional radio and mobile usage of young girls at large, and is delivered by Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action India.

Sunolo Sakhi : Radio enabling period talk

The Problem Statement:
The problem is very much social and cannot easily be addressed in an Indian context. Menstruation is believed to be a taboo to be discussed and mentioned about. As a natural process it happens but with a shame. The popular assumption for menstrual cycle is very much negative. Being prone to severe health hazards, menstrual hygiene is an ignored subject and hence is a much needed area to be explored and intervened about.

The social stigma ensures that most girls and women hide themselves during menstruating. Breaking the barrier of society and reaching out to the girls with some hygiene solution and knowledge is still far away dream in many conservative communities. Theoretically getting into someone’s house and change the regular practice and believe of the women is too difficult. Innovation was only way out to break the silence and bring it to front. For many communities still marriage is the only solution to get rid of period pain during adolescent age. Contributing to child marriage, this issue of poor menstrual hygiene was also affected by common myths. One of the major reasons of school drop outs,  though not recorded with numbers, is the period led health issues. Apart from that, many adolescent girls are debarred to come out in public or meet their male counterparts and other friends during their monthly period. 

Looking ahead with a solution to address the issue of adolescent girls and provide some sustainable solution for such a cause, the project sets an objective of imparting the knowledge on menstrual hygiene indifferently and creating peers to take it forward for a long way. This was designed to create a model which can be replicated and expanded wisely.

Project design:
Sunalo Sakhi project focuses on educating slum dwellers of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, especially adolescent girls and women, on menstrual hygiene. It raises awareness about menstruation, its hygiene and better ways of dealing with this cycle of the body. The multi facet campaigning through radio shows, audio podcasting, individual counseling, focused group discussion, and film screenings in slums and in nearby high-schools makes us different from others.

More than bringing the knowledge in, the important aspect of the project was to enable the mothers and young girls talk about the issue with themselves. Bridging the gap was a major task which was dealt with rigorous social mobilization. It’s equally important that the parents and male counterpart in the houses also know about the natural cycle of a female body and take it as normal as anything.

The design of the intervention was purely technical using 360 degree communication channels. To start with the social mobilization, forming Sakhi Clubs (Sisters club) in the community involving the young girls and women was the first milestone which later opened the window to other kinds of intervention. As the topic is very much scientific and technical, adding expert inputs and advice was our attempt which got easier when radio was introduced as a medium of penetrating into the lifestyles of these slum dwellers. The radio show was purposefully designed to go live to encourage active participation of young girls. Initially started with a community radio, this radio show is now broadcasted in commercial radio channels. Using mobile radio and also forming radio clubs within the Sakhi club, the project made everyone become a listener.

Film screenings, audio podcasting and focused group discussions, knowledge products etc. are supporting the major activities of generating different queries and answering them right. The project continued its mobilization in a slum for 3 months and then it moves to a different slum and in long run, the Sakhi clubs continue and the leaders impart peers learning with our regular monitoring. 

Value Addition:
We partnered with Centre for Women and Child Development (CCWD) a local organization, to develop sign language video book and also audio books and distributed these to 5000 adolescent girls in the state who are hearing and speech impaired and visually challenged. Recently we have developed braille books on menstrual hygiene which is first of its kind effort.  

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Practical Action India

Practical Action has been working in India for several years, with projects in the eastern province of Odisha. We have also been offering technical information and consultancy services through our Delhi office and knowledge services in India through our knowledge sharing unit, Practical Answers.

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The July 2016 edition of Waterlines, Practical Action's journal on water supply, sanitation, hygiene and waste management, is devoted to the topic of menstrual hygiene in developing countries.

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