Paddling Foundation is a non-profit organization and a menstrual hygiene initiative based out of Mumbai. They work towards creating awareness about menstruation and menstrual hygiene as it is one of the most incognizant issues India faces today. Founded by Dipika Daga in December 2018, who set up her team and departments by February 2019. Paddling Foundation got registered in 2019.
“Personally struggling with the menstrual taboos engraved in the society inspired me to gather like-minded individuals to fight against the menstrual taboo, while also making menstrual hygiene and menstrual education a right of every woman and not a luxury”, adds Dipika.
If menstrual hygiene is not taken into consideration and no effective measures are taken, the taboo surrounding menstruation will persist. Periods, a biological function of the body, will continue to be misunderstood causing diseases and infections, as well as psychological impacts on mental health. Paddling is devoted to cultivating a healthy and informative discussion around menstruation.
“Paddling Foundation is led by some very courageous women and men who have the power to speak their mind”, says Riddhi Sharma, CEO & Founder. “Being a woman, I have often been at the receiving end of the ‘taboos’ and ‘stigma’ associated with the period. And hence, when I met these young driven minds, with clarity of thought and passion for the cause, I found myself effortlessly joining the movement.”
Nandina Ramchandran, CEO has been mentoring the team of ten young women and men. “They wish to change attitudes on menstruation and bring in a revolution in menstrual practices, habits and behaviours in India. This will go a long way in restoring gender parity and empowerment for women – both in urban and rural India”, she feels.
Their plan and work involves looking after school sanitation project in remote areas, imparting workshops and health camp on Menstrual health and education, free distribution of sanitary napkins in areas that lack access, availability, or awareness of menstrual products, setting up Menstrual shops selling menstrual products at a subsidized rate, thus providing them a source of income while also catering to the community at large.
They also encourage use of sustainable menstrual products and eco-friendly ways of disposal of sanitary napkins.
“Our mission is simple”, says Dipika. “ We want to create a healthy and destigmatized environment and generate awareness about menstrual health and hygiene in communities across India”.
Breaking The Taboo
Paddling Foundation is also working hard to eradicate social myths & taboos that have revolved around menstruation for generations and create an environment for a healthy discussion and understanding of it.
The team, along with volunteers, does on-ground campaigning, distribution of menstrual products and spreads awareness about menstrual health and hygiene to women and girls in remote areas.
Their recent campaign was a collaboration with Kathaa India for a donation of 1500 pads to New Delhi. In its collaboration with Youngistaan Army, Paddling distributed 800 pads in the areas around Dombivali to girls and women to whom access to these products is not possible.
Gender Inclusivity in Menstruation
One of their important campaigns involves creating awareness about trans persons who menstruate. Menstruation is not just a woman thing. With half the world menstruating at one time or another, they believe that it is important to build a gender-inclusive platform revolving solely around menstruation and normalize the discussion!
One of the lesser-known facts in our society is that any person with functioning ovaries and a uterus can menstruate. And apart from cisgender women, this includes certain transgender, non-binary and intersex individuals. While the stigma and the challenges around menstruation remain, there are some additional difficulties which are faced by individuals in the queer community.
Drawing from real life instances faced by people, they want to show the relationship between gender dysphoria and menstruation, voicing a need for taking steps towards a more inclusive menstruation; through demanding gender neutral packages, toilets and more.
They have a volunteer set up where one can join their cause by registering on their site through the form. “It is voluntary to be a part of Paddling, for which just fill out the forms from the careers menu above, once they are filled and submitted, the respective department holds interview on call, and volunteers are selected according to the required eligibility”.