Dubai: Women losing their lives from poor menstrual hygiene is a problem in India, and I decided to do something about it. Last year I started a campaign to help improve the situation and recently completed my aim of helping 700 adolescent girls from my home state of Maharashtra and provided them with a year supply of sanitary pads.
In November 2018, inspired after watching a Bollywood movie called ‘PadMan’, I decided to do something about the issue. After researching, I got to know that only 18 per cent of women and girls in India used proper sanitary hygiene products, whereas a huge 82 per cent are deprived of this necessity due to lack of awareness and affordability.
I immediately created an appeal video and shared it on my platform – WeCarebyRiva and on various social media channels. As it was the time of the Indian festival of Diwali, I also attended and put up my kiosk at several community gatherings, meeting people and sharing about my initiative. I personally met and convinced people to donate Dh20, an amount sufficient to support one needy girl with a supply of one full year of sanitary pads. Within a month, I raised enough funds to be able to support over 700 girls.
In December 2018, I visited a tribal area of Shahapur in India, where I spent the day with more than 250 girls from schools in the area, educated them about the issue and gave them each a one-year stock of sanitary pads.
Also in early January, I visited a school in Pune with girls coming from low-income households and slum areas in the city, where I spoke to and provided sanitary products to 250 girls.
On January 11, which was also my grandfather’s 70th birthday, I concluded my initiative by helping 200 more girls from two schools run by the Pune Municipal Corporation. To me, reaching my goal of helping a total of 700 girls was a gift to my grandfather.
In December, during my visit to Shahpur tribal area, I called upon Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra Chief Minister at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai, where he congratulated me on my ventures.
During this meeting, I also met with the Minister of Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde and other senior leaders of Maharashtra, India.
When I visited Pune, the mayor, Mukta Tilak facilitated my visited and appreciated my contribution to society.
At the same time, I also addressed the gathering of over 400 teachers from Pune Municipal Corporation run schools and emphasised on the importance of menstrual hygiene and ways in which teachers can help improve conditions for young girls.
Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, also recognised my work. She said, “It is creditable for Riva to have taken up such a bold issue at a young age of 13. She is a true inspiration for the next generation and when we have youth being so aware and caring for the social causes of the community, then sky is the limit for any nation’s development.”
During the initiative, I got a chance to interact and spend time with these girls and heard about the problems they face. I now aim to take more initiatives to help solve some of the other issues they raised.
I also plan to continue the menstrual hygiene initiative and make it bigger by putting together a team of friends and well-wishers who have reached out.
The reader is a pupil based in Dubai. Send us your videos and pictures at readers@gulfnews.
Comment from school principal:
“Riva belongs to Gen Z, a generation that thinks deeply about issues that impact their sensibilities. She is a passionate young girl who wants to make a difference to others less fortunate than her and issues that impact our environment. Her menstrual hygiene campaign came as no surprise. This is not the first and will not be the last. She has been a force multiplier who has inspired juniors and seniors alike, who in turn have come up with their own socially relevant projects. Her parents, teachers and the school have worked together and played a big role in nurturing her. I have no doubt that Riva will go on to bigger and better things and it’s only a matter of time before she is recognized globally,“ Nargish Khambatta, principal at Gems Modern Academy, Dubai said.