Mpower and Ujaas Join Forces to Spread Awareness about Mental Wellbeing and Menstrual Health among Sex Workers in Pune

Pune, Maharashtra – March, 2024 – Embracing the essence of International Women’s Day, Mpower and Ujaas, initiatives driven by the Aditya Birla Education Trust, spearheaded by Ms Adviatesha Birla, Founder Ujaas and Mrs Neerja Birla, Founder chairperson Mpower embarked on proactive endeavors to advocate for women’s health, with a dedicated focus on menstrual health and hygiene management alongside mental well-being. In a collaborative effort with Haribhau waghmode patil pratisthan, a local NGO, Mpower and Ujaas initiated an outreach program aimed at the sex worker community in Budhwarpeth, Pune. Nearly 400 sex workers received free sanitary pads and participated in informative sessions on menstrual health, hygiene management, and mental health awareness. Each package distributed also contained a QR code, allowing recipients to undertake a brief mental health self-assessment, thereby empowering them to better understand their mental health status and seek support if required. Additionally, a dedicated mental health helpline, Mpower Let’s Talk 1on1 a 24X7 multi lingual toll free mental health helpline (1800 120 820050), was provided, offering support in regional languages as needed.

Speaking about the success of this initiative, Sarika Lashkre, Haribhau Waghmode Patil Pratisthan said “This is the first time an event to support the mental health and menstrual health together for sex workers have been organized. These people live in conditions that are not feasible for their menstrual health and hygiene as well as mental health frequently suffering from infections and abuse awareness on how to manage their periods hygienically and seek support of mental health will definitely help them. Through initiatives like these, we aim to break the silence, break stigmas, and let everyone know that their mental health matters just as much as anyone else’s.”

Speaking on the workshop Vaishali Deokar (name changed to maintain confidentiality), said “Nobody really cares for our health, it is nice to see efforts made by Aditya Birla Education Trust to educate us, many practical tips of menstrual hygiene management and mental health were shared and we thank the team for that.

To further drive awareness Mpower and Ujaas also released a comprehensive survey targeting women across India, the survey, titled “Mindful Menstruation: A Survey on the Link between Menstrual Health and Mental Wellbeing,” aimed to delve into the prevalence and impact of mental health challenges during menstruation.

The findings of the survey, which drew responses from over 2,400 women across India, uncovered significant insights. 60% of the respondents reported heightened stress, anxiety, and mood swings before or during their menstrual cycle. Additionally, 55% of the participants admitted to struggling with focusing on or completing daily tasks during menstruation.  These findings underscore the critical need for heightened awareness about the link between mental health and menstrual health, advocating for the destigmatization of menstruation and encouraging open discussions about mental well-being. Women should recognize that help is available if needed, and seeking support is a vital step towards managing emotional challenges during menstruation.

Appreciating the highlight given to the mental wellbeing of the sex workers, Dr Mukesh Mohode, General Manager- Strategy & Projects, Aditya Birla Education Trust, said ” Our efforts aim to shed light on the often overlooked yet critical aspects of menstrual health and mental well-being. By fostering awareness and understanding in these areas, we empower women to prioritize their holistic well-being. Addressing menstrual health and hygiene, alongside mental health, is not just a matter of health; it’s a matter of dignity and empowerment. Through our endeavors, we strive to break stigmas, promote open dialogue, and ensure that every woman feels supported and empowered in managing her health journey.”

Ujaas and Mpower also joined forces to host an enlightening InstaLive session featuring Mpower Clinical Psychologist Ajeeta Mulay and Ujaas consultant gynecologist Dr. Tejal Kanwar. Highlighting the impact of menstrual health on mental health, both experts emphasized the significance of adopting self-relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, regular exercise, healthy diet, and adequate sleep. This collaborative effort aimed to provide holistic support and treatment options, paving the way for improved overall well-being.