Source- The Daily Star

In a relief distribution event of Bandhu Foundation, Atia Nur Chowdhury, Director of Bandhu Foundation and her colleagues came across a 21 year old girl and after they listened to her horrifying experiences with menstruation, the idea of Project Konna came into light.

Project Konna, an initiative of Bandhu Foundation of Bangladesh has been working with adolescent girls to ensure the spread of proper information about menstruation and menstrual hygiene as well as to reduce school drop-out rates due to menstruation.

“My main objective of working with this project is to ensure that most adolescent girls have proper menstrual hygiene knowledge before having their period, unlike me,” shares Atia, drawing from her own anomalies during menstruation.

Project Konna, which started as a part of Project Kombol, focuses on the areas of the country where people are living in extreme poverty and where menstruation is still considered a taboo matter.

Starting their journey in 2016 in Jamalpur, the team worked on a baseline survey in Kushtia in 2017 and ever since, Team Konna has been working tirelessly throughout the country.

Team Konna conducts workshops in schools to teach the underprivileged students about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Their workshops are designed following a module developed by experts. In many parts of the country, the concept of the sanitary napkin is still new and young girls lack proper knowledge about menstruation.  Thus, the main objective of these workshops is to provide basic knowledge.

“Many schools respond positively to these events, while several schools including the madrasahs refuse to collaborate,” says Farah Jabin Ahmed, Head of Public Relations, Project Konna. “Our primary goal is to reduce the drop-out rates as hundreds of girls are forced to leave schools due to the negative reactions to menstruation.”

The schools also receive one to two emergency menstruation kits, named Apuni, which contains 50 sanitary pads, toilet tissues, pain killers, hand sanitisers and disposable bags. These kits provide unrestricted access to sanitary napkins during school time.

Conducting two to four workshops in two schools each month, the volunteers reach around 80 to 160 students monthly. When schools reopen, the team plans to increase the workshops to 6 sessions in 3 schools monthly and also  double the number of emergency kits they provide.

Another signature event, Aadhi, sets up free medical camps for women living in the remote areas of Bangladesh. The camp provides treatment for diseases caused by poor menstrual hygiene and Project Konna also conduct separate workshops accordingly.

In these events, Project Konna also provides women with eco-friendly reusable and washable sanitary napkins which can be used up to 12 to 15 months, at half the price.

“Bangladesh’s government has no certain standards when it comes to sanitary napkin production,” shares Atia. “The lack of standards make menstruation more of a serious issue in the remote areas of Bangladesh.”

Project Konna, in collaboration with an Indian company, Unipads, from Ahmedabad, plans to expand the reach of reusable sanitary napkins in the future.

Till now, Project Konna has reached 2,780 people through 28 workshops, five distributions and one baseline survey. They plan to reach 10,000 women through their Aadhi event in the next five years.

“We’re also aiming to empower the women living in the communities we reach through Aadhi by setting up facilities or factories so that they are able to make and sell the pads themselves,” shares Atia.

Recently, after conducting an online survey to find out how women are getting access to sanitary pads during the coronavirus crisis, they implemented a female based sanitary napkin delivery system, in collaboration with Romoni.

Recently, in collaboration with Give Bangladesh, Project Konna distributed 150 sanitary napkins to the flood affected women of Erendabari, Gaibandha.

Give Bangladesh arranges post flood medical camp each year to assist flood affected families in Erendabari, where Project Konna participates as the menstrual hygiene partner.

Project Konna’s commendable efforts to reduce the rate of school dropouts as well as to reduce the rate of fatal health issues due to poor menstrual hygiene in rural areas of the country brings safety and the right information to hundreds of underprivileged girls and women.