devika kumar

Seventeen-year-old Devika Chhipa Kumar (left), an Indian American student at the Westwood High School in Austin, Texas, is currently in Kota, Rajasthan, to install a cost-effective sanitary pad manufacturing machine. (Devika Kumar/Facebook photo)

You can give back to your community in a variety of ways. Whether it’s volunteering at an event, helping raise funds for causes or making a monetary donation, each act can positively impact the lives of thousands of less privileged people.

Seventeen-year-old Devika Chhipa Kumar, an Indian American student at Westwood High School in Austin, Texas, has chosen a unique but an extremely important cause. She is currently in a village in Kota, Rajasthan, to install a cost-effective sanitary pad manufacturing machine for promoting better health among women and girls.

Kumar, a 12th grader, has undertaken the task as part of her Girl Scout project, which requires her to fulfil an 80-hour-long sustainable project that serves less fortunate communities, according to a report in Hindustan Times. She has installed the sanitary pad machine in the Dityakheri panchayat zone – where the lack of awareness on menstrual hygiene is especially acute.

Kumar, accompanied by her father, Vijay Kumar Chhipa, an IIT-Kharagpur alum, and mother, Pratima, is touring the five villages under the Dityakheri panchayat to educate their women on the importance of menstrual hygiene.

“I want to sensitize the rural women in my father’s homeland, where menstruation is still believed to be taboo. The use of sanitary pads is not widespread either, mostly due to their unavailability and unaffordability,” the report quoted her as saying.

Taking inspiration from Arunachalam Muruganantham, who revolutionized menstrual health for rural women by inventing a low-cost sanitary pad making machine, Kumar raised funds from friends and family to set up a unit at Dityakheri. Staffers from Muruganantham’s factory are training five rural women to operate the machine, and once the product is up and running, more women will become a part of the project.

Along with solving the problem of poor menstrual hygiene, the machine will also serve as a consistent source of income for these women. The cost of a regular sanitary napkin is Rs. 5 whereas this machine will bring it down to Rs. 2. “The sanitary pad manufacturing machine has five units, which manufactures six sanitary pads in 15 minutes and up to 20,000 in a year,” Kumar said.

Depending on the success of the project, Pratima said they would take up similar projects in other parts of the country.

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