While it’s a great news that Bollywood has recognized the efforts by Arunachalam Muruganantham, (now known as the PAD-MAN, thanks to Akshay Kumar!), perhaps not many are aware that there’s a PAD-WOMAN too, and that too in our very own PUNJAB, working silently towards Menstrual health awareness for the women in the slums of Patiala!
This kind soul is named, RUHPREET KAUR who transformed her personal tragedy into a narrative of triumph by doing exemplary work in Punjab. Ruhpreet is a single mother returned from the US around two years back, who went through an abusive marriage that left her heartbroken and depressed. However, that didn’t affect the kind heart that she carries within her since childhood and soon after, she trudged along a path that didn’t just give meaning to her life but also gave her immense emotional fulfillment; not to mention the inspiration that it gave to many others!
Here’s a candid chat with Ruhpreet who tells us about her journey so far.
Q: Were you oriented towards social service since childhood or did any particular incident move you in this direction?
A: Though I have always been a helping hand kind of a person, however it was the abusive marriage that I went through that brought out a drastic change within me. I often wondered if a woman like me, who belongs to a broad-minded family, finds it difficult to come out and talk about the abuse she’s going through in the open, who’s going to talk about the problems of women belonging to unprivileged backgrounds? Someone has to support them. So, I thought, why not me? Moreover, after my divorce I was still in shock thinking about all those terrifying days and abusing nights. I used to sleep for hardly 2-3 hours! Then my family advised me to spend some time with the needy people and serve them. By the grace of God, during those days, I met one of my friends, Abhishek from Delhi who introduced me to the world of giving, serving and NGOs. And that changed my life.
"I often wondered if a woman like me, who belongs to a broad-minded family, finds it difficult to talk about the abuse she’s going through, who’s going to talk about the problems of underprivileged women? Someone has to support them. So, I thought, why not me?"
Q: Please describe the moment when the idea of making the slums of Patiala, ‘Period-friendly’, hit your mind.
A: I was already teaching slum kids along with the N.G.O Har Hath Kalam, which is doing exemplary work on its own. So while teaching them, I had interactions with their mothers and other teenage girls of that area too. I got to know about several issues that they were facing and then, communicating with them on regular basis led me to know about how less aware they were regarding menstrual hygiene and sanitation, in general. That’s how I seriously began thinking about doing something constructive about the issue.
Q: How has the journey been so far?
A: Initially, it was very hard to break the ice and talk to them. But now it’s much easier. They know it’s okay to talk. And their happy faces themselves tell about the journey!
"All I want to tell the men of our society is that don’t let your nation’s women fee ashamed about the natural phenomena."
Q: What more do you want to do ahead regarding making our region period-friendly?
A: We’re already in talks with the government regarding putting up a unit for manufacturing sanitary napkins here. Once we are successful in doing that, we would love to give the employment to the same slum women and expand this awareness to other cities also.
Q: Every successful journey has its share of hurdles too. Please tell us something about your struggles.
A: The biggest hurdle we had to face was ‘communication’ as the topic of ‘Periods’ is very sensitive in our society. It was very difficult to even talk about this. But as it’s said, giving up is never an option. And, it was never for me, especially.
Q: Please tell us something about your achievements so far.
A: We have already distributed 5000 pads by now and have organized awareness camps. With Har Hath Kalam, I go and talk to the slum women on regular basis and trying my best to create a more friendly environment for them.
Q: What do you want to tell the men of our society and the government?
A: All I want to tell the men of our society is that don’t let your nation’s women fee ashamed about the natural phenomena. If they are ashamed to talk about this, do your part then. Take a step ahead and talk to them. And to the government, I would like to say that let’s talk about this on a national level now. Organize awareness camps among the adolescent girls and women. Try to reach every nook and corner of our nation with the idea of pads and sanitation!
Help Ruhpreet make slums in Patiala Period-Friendly by donating here: Donate