Updated: Oct 22, 2021
I am Dr. Mehetab Nasreen, a doctor by profession and a volunteer by passion, I'm founder of the Project Monthlies, we work on menstrual and reproductive health awareness, I have been volunteering actively since 2013, gender issues being the closest to my heart, we, under Monthlies have spread awareness among 5000+ women, and we are happy to see the communities changing their perceptions about menstruation from being a taboo to a beautiful process ensuring life. I currently work as an advisory member with "Limitless Stree Project" of Reaching Sky Foundation and working as a "V Force Coordinator" with UNV India - V Force. I have represented Andhra Pradesh twice at the National Youth Parliament Festival and have been shortlisted (among top 2) to present a paper In the Round Table on Accreditation for Volunteering at India volunteering conclave, organized by UNDP and a winner of first season of "Nurturing Voluntrepreneurs" by Vartaleap foundation, ComMutiny and UNV India.
VOLUNTEERING FOR ME
I'm a doctor by profession, but the passion which drove me towards it was volunteering. For me it's a solace and keeps me positive and hopeful about a better planet, I believe that these small efforts by volunteers are the forces sustaining humanity on our planet both in material and intangible sense. Volunteering is that force in my life which replenishes me and helps me stay motivated and do better, as that smile on someone's face as a result of our volunteering is a priceless achievement.
I've been volunteering since 2010(12 years), But I'm actively volunteering since 2013 when I joined NSS and learnt how I can contribute my time and efforts to solve real issues of the needy, the inspiration behind my volunteering was primarily the feeling of empathy whenever I saw someone suffering, as a kid I was frequently prone to illnesses which means regular visits to hospital, the situation of people there pushed me to do something which can help them, it's how I started and the happiness in volunteering is the constant inspiration to keep me volunteering.
I have been a frequent patient to hospitals since 2006, my grand father was an AYUSH practitioner and there I noticed a lot of people who came to him didn't even have 8proper clothing and footwear, he used to help them and I saw that smile on their faces when they came back next time, atleast becoming free from their ailments, and now they can work and earn as they're healthy, this drove me to pursue Medicine (MBBS) with a hope that I can bring many smiles, but the real problem was about to uncover now as I got a seat in government medical college and hospital, there I saw the pathetic condition of people in my hospital, this was a bigger problem, far bigger than what I saw in my grandfathers clinic, here people were sick, on the top of it, many were left to die just because they didn't even have enough money to buy basic medicines / to move to higher centre on referral, most of them due to illiteracy don't even know the proper procedure through which they can get help from government and other NGOs working,
This is when I took up volunteering seriously as a tool to do the best I can to alleviate their sufferings, I joined NSS and eventually worked through food drives, fund-raisers and arranging basic amenities in hospital premises to patient attendants, NSS taught me leadership skills and I became the NSS Team Leader, which gave a boost to the impact in our campaigns, then with 2 other friends we started LOVING HEARTS ASSOCIATION to widen the scope of our volunteering activities and adopted an orphanage, located at a remote location (15 kms from main town), developed it in a way where kids now can self-teach the younger ones in the orphanage and ensured their regular school attending by arranging them a school minivan and other basic study materials. Then I joined NYKS as a resource person, undertook many projects with help of UN DYC, worked mainly on women issues and menstrual and reproductive health of women. .
ORGANISATION Individual project/ supported by Vision Youth Club and Pragathi Padham Youth
MISSION & VISION
The project aims at educating the society as a whole and women in specific about menstruation and by awareness eradicate various inhumane myths and practices prevailing around menstruation. To form an empowered self-sustaining cohort of menstrual champions to amplify the outreach to the remotest areas possible as these are the areas worst hit by myths and barbaric practices surrounding menstruation
To educate everyone about the basic anatomical and physiological processes behind menstruation thereby making people especially women understand that it's natural , normal and an essential beautiful process to sustain human race.
To bust "Myths Surrounding Menstruation"
To make females familiar with their basic anatomy and thereby teach them basic self assessment regarding their health in general and reproductive health in particular.
To teach basic self screening techniques for Breast and Cervical cancer and create awareness regarding simple diagnostic tools to detect the same / prevent them at an early stage.
Impact and Outreach
About 5000 women were reached (formally) in 63 sessions , by Learn, Act, Engage model, these 63 sessions include those taken by some of the women who attended our initial workshops thereby perpetuating a chain of awareness which we believe might have reached many more women in their respective circles formally and informally.
The core issues addressed in the campaigns include
Interaction regarding what they feel about menstruation and what are the beliefs / myths surrounding menstruation in their society.
Anatomy of female reproductive system
Physiology behind menstruation in simple local language
Common symptoms associated with menstruation - What's normal and What's abnormal ?
Awareness about Different Menstrual Products Available , their usage and disposal
The sustainability of period products
How to cope with the changes during menstruation
Leucorrhoea (White Discharge) - What's normal and when you need to worry ?
Importance of self examination for Early Detection of Breast Cancer - How to self examine ?
Awareness about Pap smear screening and its role in early detection of cervical cancer.
(special target being school going girls and women from rural areas and urban slums - especially mothers of infants as their role is significant in child upbringing)
Initially we trained our team on menstruation by taking classes and volunteers interacted in their local communities and identified areas which needs intervention, we approached women SHGs and local body authorities of those areas to get an audience for the workshop, it was difficult to convince those women to attend a workshop on a taboo topic like menstruation and reproductive health, so after initial failures, we made our session a part of local body meetings and SHG meetings which the women have to attend anyway as a part of their regular work, so from there we identified active women who can be trained further to carry that impact to other members of their area and now these people have the spread the message extensively through word of mouth, and even we trained high school girls virtually during the pandemic about the same.
LENGTH OF SERVICE
1st February 2017 - Present - 1500+ hours (6 hours a week on average)
ROLE IN PROJECT
I am the Founder of the project, I used my skills in communication and my knowledge of medicine and my existing network of volunteers to bring the essential number of volunteers, the necessary knowledge for workshops and to engage women who were initially reluctant to join the workshops, These skills helped in designing the campaign and ensure engagement after some initial failures in sessions, the good network and contact with district NYKS ensured constant inflow of volunteering support to continue the campaign. Being a team player, it helped me to motivate and ensure that the team spread the message even after they left the project due to their engagements in life. I personally learnt a lot of lessons from the project, intially the ability to handle failure and then to work effectively as a team player and it polished my leadership skills and made my communication skills better which now are useful in many other projects as well as to grab more opportunities.
IMPACT OF PROJECT
Now the women who attended our workshops themselves are advocates of Menstrual hygiene and reproductive health awareness, in few testimonials we took from our attendees and through follow up feedbacks , we have noticed a chance in perception on these women , especially mothers on menstruation, now the practice of not allowing children inside the main house during menstruation is slowly disappearing in many homes whose members attended the sessions, we have noted an increase in attendance of girls in the schools which we took sessions, who previously used to bunk school during their menstruation, the local phcs and health centers and ASHAs have testified the increase in women seeking for a pap smear test and attending gynaecology opds to get examined for reproductive health issues, rare but we have even got responses from few women about their acceptance towards Menstrual cups which is usually tabooed by many women as a menstrual product. In future we are planning to extend the campaign to other districts and states and make it a Pan India Campaign, by recruiting full time volunteers and interns so that we can amplify the outreach to every nook and corner of the country especially remote areas. An additional pilot which we are currently doing is to bring a help line number where women can call and discuss issues exclusive to menstruation with medical graduates ( using my existing medical graduate circle on voluntary basis - currently working on technical part of this )
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS