They say it’s easier to dream but takes a whole lot more to make it happen!!
Navi Mumbai based Vaidhei Pagaria went through her own set of chapters before realizing what her real dream was and what needed to make that happen.
“I have always been a very studious kid since childhood ― born in Vishakhapatnam and brought up in Navi Mumbai ― I have always desired to learn and try new things. I was the youngest in my family to complete CA (Chartered Accountant) at 21. As a result, my family’s expectations were also very high. I was very sure of starting my own CA practice and not going for any conventional job, but my real journey started after I got married at 25,” she shares as she starts her chapter of achieving another milestone.
While pursuing her chartered accountancy course, Vaidhei got an ilk for doing something in the social sector. After her marriage, she started teaching English to children across rural India voluntarily with different NGOs, and that phase changed her life entirely.
It was 2019, and Vaidhei was teaching students from Maharashtra and Jharkhand when she realized that the girls and women staying in the rural parts were still far behind that the ones staying in the cities. They were fighting for necessities which we used to consider as basics. “They could have led a much better and dignified life than that. They were experienced and smart but not knowledgeable and were least aware of issues like menstruation, marriage, pregnancy, etc. Their girls used to miss school during their periods and were not much aware of the pros and cons of almost anything. I knew that this needed to be fixed, and that’s how I decided to work in the development sector,’ shares Pagaria, who also runs two NGOs ― Sampoorna Shiksha and Pagaria Welfare Foundation.
Since she had already established a warm, comforting, and trustworthy connection with the kids, particularly girls, it became easy for Vaidhei to initiate ‘period talks’ and share relevant information and knowledge with them.
She learned a lot and gained great insights after joining Pad Squad Community as a Pad Squadder. This made her realize that only pad distribution or knowledge transfer would not make her Menstruation Hygiene Management (MHM) drive a success. It would need a lot more than that ― but in a process that hampers any girl’s learning or women’s thought process.
Eventually, she did a certificate master class on MHM with Aditi Gupta from Menstrupedia and made her own model to take online and offline MHM sessions. Vaidhei named this program ‘Project Laadli’ and started conducting it on a regular basis. Each session included information from Mentsrupedia comics, games, quizzes, role plays, dance workouts and lasted for around 2 hours. Instead of directing the girls and women towards one product, Vaidhei decided to teach them about every period product available in the market, their pros and cons, using instructions ― encouraging them to take their own decisions.
Soon this became a part of her life ― so much that she started doing such drives even when she was travelling to different parts of the country. She used to keep a day or two extra to organize such awareness drives during her travel trips.
And though she was doing this work for quite some time, she got it registered in January 2020. “We did several relief drives during the pandemic lockdown and distributed sanitary pads to rural and tribal women in Maharashtra. This included the distribution of 500 reusable cloth pads, which would last for almost two years,” the aim was to promote the idea of sustainability among the girls and women living in rural and urban slums while maintaining their health and hygiene. On Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021, her organization also distributed approximately 20,000 biodegradable disposable sanitary pads across the country.
The 30YO social entrepreneur believes that knowledge and time are two of the biggest investments that she made. All that time she took to conduct her research, learn more about the issues just strengthened her thought process and ensured her that this is what she wants to do.
As of now, Pagaria is trying to expand her team and looking for trainers and self-motivated leaders who can conduct drives and distribute Laadli Kits in different parts of rural India. She is trying to focus more on remote and interior parts of the villages where help & reach is still unavailable, particularly for hygiene and menstruation. Along with that, she is also working on a self-help group model that can help local women in becoming financially independent.
Vaidhei’s MHM sessions are an end to end information pool for every girl and woman ― from explaining the reason behind menstruation to reproductive system, pregnancy, menopause, single & reusable pads, tampons, menstrual cups, panty liners, pre & post periods care, exercise & diet to follow ― she tries to cover every possible topic in her sessions.
Originally hailing from Rajasthan, the former CA found that villages in Maharashtra and Rajasthan are well equipped with hygiene and sanitation products but still carry a conservative mentality and several taboos with them, and that is what exactly she is aiming to change.
In the future, Vaidhei is also planning to launch a small booklet in the local language on puberty & menstruation, which she can include in the Laadli Kit along with starting programs for marriage, pregnancy and nutrition support.
Vaidhei further plans to:
- Provide 10k Laadki Kits to females by 2022 – to increase awareness and education
- Provide 100 Laadli Pregnancy Kits to women by 2025 – who are expecting their child and cannot afford proper health & nutrition
- Provide 100 Laadli Marriage Kits to women by 2025 – to fund marriage of those who belong to lower marginalized families
- Create 200 Laadli Fellow Leaders – who can be the changemaker, can learn & evolve, get empowered and empower others
- Support 100 females by forming Bachat Gat – self-help groups to empower them financially
As she works towards checking these off from her bucket list, the only regret that she holds is the feeling of starting late in her life. “Now that I’ve got the purpose of my life, I feel every day is so important to me, and I’ve got so much to cover, learn and try,” she shares.
“But yes, each human has his/ her own pace. So if you know what makes you happy, stop wasting time. Try to make small differences every day ― eventually, you’ll realize how big differences you’ve actually brought,” Vaidhei ends on this note.
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