In a grand function held at Goa under the aegis of National Quality Awards last weekend, India’s first Miss Universe Sushmita Sen felicitated Dr Jawahar Surisetti for his project “My Beti, My Life” at Cidade de Goa for extraordinary service to women and girl empowerment.
Dr Jawahar Surisetti is a well-known educationist and psychologist in India, who has been awarded by the U.S. State and the Indian Government many times earlier for his projects of social education for the disadvantaged children of the interiors of India. He runs Corporate Social Responsibility projects of Tata Steel, JK Lakshmi Cements, Airtel and many other corporates by extending his expertise to reach out to the last person of the society.
During one such visits of the World Bank and UN to the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, he had witnessed that there were a large number of girls dropping out of school in Grade 7. A study was commissioned to find out the reasons and it was found that there were multiple reasons for the increased dropout. During their periods, girls were finding it difficult to go to the toilet because there were no separate girls toilets in schools.
Second was the non-availability of clean water in schools and third was the lack of facilities for disposal of rags and pads in schools. A report was submitted to the Government of India out of which the separate girls toilets issue has been actively engaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During this study, it was found that girls in these backward areas used rags, gunny bags, and ash during their periods as a replacement of sanitary napkins. These dirty material being used was hazardous and in some cases cancerous to the health of these girls. Dr Jawahar Surisetti then decided to start MyBeti which would supply sanitary napkins free of cost to these girls through a network of lady teachers in government schools. The aim was to bring back these girls to schools. A major napkin manufacturing company supported this cause by supplying 10 million napkins to MyBeti. Currently, 1 lakh girls are being supplied with these napkins free of cost.
The ultimate aim of Dr Jawahar is to create an ecosystem wherein the local women self-help groups are trained to manufacture clean and hygienic napkins to cater to these local schools. These are bought by the government or district administration and supplied to local schools creating employment for these ladies and reducing costs for the government while the purpose of the girl child is solved. This is the second phase of the project.
Dr Jawahar wishes that apart from his efforts, the whole community comes forward in getting toilets for girls and clean water in schools and create a disposal system for the sanitary napkins in schools. All these efforts could bring girls in large numbers back to school with the confidence that the society is with them.