All these years, women prisoners of Gujarat's biggest jail—Sabarmati—in Ahmedabad were jobless. But now they have work on hand—a work that would give them and women inmates of other jails across the state a freedom of sort.
Karma Foundation, an NGO, is helping women in Sabarmati Jail make sanitary napkins. Priyanshi Patel of the foundation said on Friday that the sanitary pads would be given free of cost to the women inmates in all jails in the state.
Patel said that the whole idea is that the women become independent and take this up as a business opportunity, if they wish, once they are free.
The foundation was doing a few activities, including creating awareness about right to cleanliness, in the jail when Navjivan Trust, set up by Mahatma Gandhi, came up with an idea about women making sanitary napkins.
Managing Trustee of the Navjivan Trust Vivek Desai said that the Trust's role would be to coordinate between the foundation and the jail authorities.
Having procured a machine from National Innovation Foundation and set it up in the jail, the foundation has plan to reach out to women in 14,000 out of the 18,000 villages in the state. Patel, however, said that this would happen over a period of five to six years.
Funded by the foundation, the not for profit project would take about two years to reach the break-even point. In the villages, the idea is to explain them about the necessity of using a sanitary napkin and make them use it rather than only focussing on its marketing.
Patel said that the pads, in five different sizes, are biodegradable and made up of corn starch. The material is procured by them and training is also being imparted. Initially, the women are making a few hundred pads. The actual capacity is to make 4,000 pads per day.
The women inmates of the jails in Gujarat would get pads free of cost whereas in the villages, at a later stage, they plan to sell them at a subsidzed rate of Rs 17 per packet as against the regular market price of around Rs 30 per packet. Each packet contains eight pads, said Patel. Whatever money earned will be reinvested in training and buying more machines. A representative of the Karma Foundation said that the machine installed at the Sabarmati Jail costs Rs 5.5 lakh. There is a similar machine in Nagpur jail, he said.
Jail superintendent in-charge V.H. Dindor said that the foundation would pay the women inmates as per the rules of the prison. Dindor said that women inmates often demanded that they be given work. There has been work for the male prisoners but not for women, who did odd work. Appreciating the gesture, he said that in the past an attempt to train them in beauty parlour classes had failed.
Dindor said that now that the women would start earning, they would be able to buy something from the canteen in the jail, if they wished. “Earlier, they could not,” he remarked.
Currently, on one machine, the foundation has been able to employ about 10 to 15 out of the 150-odd women inmates.