Ahead of International Day of the Girl Child, the Population Foundation of India shares how its show, Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, has inspired young women to set up a sanitary napkin bank in their district and address issues of family planning and domestic violence
Taking a cue from the edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (MKBKSH), a group of young women from Nawada district of Bihar have set up a sanitary napkin bank. They collect `1 a day from each girl and use the money to buy sanitary pads for themselves and other girls who may not have the means to purchase them. The girls decided to come together to assist each other when they saw how their individual menstrual needs were often not met due to lack of money. This initiative is helping young girls from the district to speak up about their menstrual needs.
Ahead of International Day of the Girl Child, they share how they were inspired to act by MKBKSH, a trans-media initiative launched by the Population Foundation of India to address issues of family planning, early marriage, unplanned or early pregnancies, domestic violence and adolescent reproductive and sexual health.
Addressing why and how the sanitary napkin bank was created, youth leader Anu Kumari from Amawa village says, “To help someone who doesn’t have money, we deposit one rupee every day. That means each girl raises `30 a month. We buy sanitary pads and distribute it among poor girls, who cannot afford to buy them, in order to protect their menstrual health.”
The creator of the show, film and theatre director Feroz Abbas Khan says, “When I wrote the concept for the show seven years ago, I could have never imagined the kind of impact we have seen over these years. I wanted to make a show that was effectively communicating important social issues without being preachy. It makes me happy that Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon has become an empowering slogan for young, adolescent girls who are now spearheading the change on the ground.”
Not just creating and sustaining a sanitary napkin bank, the message of self-reliance and empowerment in the show inspired these girls to also conduct dialogues about critical but taboo subjects like contraceptive options. As Mausam Kumari, a 17-year-old youth leader from Hardiya says, “Now we talk about family planning too. We visit villages and explain these subjects to women. We tell them about options like Antara injection, Chhaya, Copper T and condoms.”
The girls also came together to demand youth-friendly health clinics to be set up in existing public health centres. “Authorities hold a public dialogue twice a year and we expressed our wish of having a youth-friendly health clinic so that we can discuss our issues and talk without any fear. Our request was fulfilled and now all the girls of the village go there and use the services available,” adds Mausam.
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India is delighted with how the show has given voice to young girls and women. Says she, “I am glad that the show is impacting their lives. That is our goal precisely. Through the character of Dr Sneha Mathur, the protagonist of the series, we have initiated difficult but important conversations about sex selection, violence, gender discrimination, safe sanitation, family planning, spacing, child marriage, mental health, drug abuse, nutrition and adolescent health.”
The women watching this change unfold are recognising the shift in the conversation around menstruation. Community member Sangeeta Devi observes, “In the past, we used to suffer silently during menstruation. Our daughters told us about napkins. We also saw the show and felt encouraged.”
The show revolves around the inspiring journey of Dr Sneha, a young doctor who leaves behind her lucrative career in Mumbai and decides to work in her village. It focusses on Sneha’s crusade to ensure quality healthcare for all. Under her leadership, village women find their voices through collective action.
Over three seasons, it has dealt with various issues. The first season comprising 52 episodes discussed issues like child marriage, sex selection at birth and gender discrimination. The second season focussed on youth and adolescents. Season 3 of the show was produced with support from the REC Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The first 104 episodes were supported by DFID (UK’s Department for International Development) and BMGF also supported 27 episodes of Season 2.