Daily Times recently spoke to various representatives of HER Pakistan, a charity initiative helping women in rural and underprivileged backgrounds to improve menstrual health and hygiene, and learned about the challenges faced by women in rural areas and difficulties in raising awareness about menstrual health as it is considered a ‘taboo’ topic in Pakistan. What is the main motive behind the initiative of HER Pakistan? Sana Lokhandwala (HER Pakistan Co-founder): HER Pakistan aims to transform women into healthy, empowered and resilient individuals by providing them with knowledge and skills that enable them to create their own safe and healthy futures. We hope to uplift socially, economically and geographically marginalised women and enable them to stand up for their very basic rights. It is only when you step out of your privileged world that you see what is happening around you. Unfortunately, menstruation is a taboo subject in Pakistan even in the most educated and privileged societies. The situation is exponentially worse in the under-served areas where women do not have access to clean water and washrooms let alone sanitary products. The management of menstruation presents significant challenges for women all over Pakistan, especially in lower income settings. Therefore, my sister Sumaira Lokhandwala and I decided to create a safe space for women to be able to share their struggles without hesitation and to be able to find the solutions to these problems together. Is there any targeted audience, whom you are working for? Sana Lokhandwala: We want to reach women who reside in slums and rural outskirts of Pakistan. These women are from socially, economically and geographically marginalised communities and HER Pakistan aims to make menstrual education available for these women. What’s the future for HER Pakistan? Sumaira Lokhandwala (HER Pakistan Co-founder): HER Pakistan is in its infant stage at the moment. Our first Menstrual Hygiene Drive was conducted on May 28, 2018 on the occasion of International Menstrual Hygiene Day. An awareness session was held for about 25 women where we discussed menstrual hygiene management tips and busted some old wives’ tales and myths about period. We also provided a month’s supply of sanitary products to these beautiful women. The event was also featured on menstrual hygiene day’s official website. The website features all the events across the world that takes place on the day. In June, Her Pakistan went to Rehri Goth and met 35 amazing women. We talked about menstrual hygiene management and created a safe space for these women to speak openly about the challenges they face. A month’s supply of sanitary products was also provided. We are already gearing up for our next drive to Machar Colony in July. We aim to make menstrual hygiene education available for underprivileged women all over Pakistan. Menstrual Hygiene Drives in interior Sind and Balochistan is on cards for the next few months. Tell us about HER Pakistan’s achievements Sumaira Lokhandwala: There is a great association between education about menstruation and its management and women’s social and psychological well-being and development. It is evident through the data we collect after the awareness sessions those women feel relatively more confident about their bodies and menstruation. They also reveal that the session helped them reflect on their menstrual hygiene practices. The access to menstrual education helps not only young girls but also middle aged women feel empowered to be able to stand up for their rights and take healthy decisions for themselves.