Did you know that about 70 per cent of women in Sri Lanka don’t have access to menstrual products?
Inspired by their mother who had no access to menstrual products while growing up in Sri Lanka, Rachel Ram, a second-year student studying psychology and forensic science at UTM, and Steffi Ram, a master’s student at University of Guelph, have started a not-for-profit organization called The Red Tent Society to provide menstrual hygiene products to women in Sri Lanka and end stigma around menstrual hygiene in their hometown. Last week, The Medium spoke with Rachel Ram to discuss their organization and how it began.
Ram was two-years-old when her family immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka to escape the civil war. Despite being so little when she moved here, Ram has stayed connected to her culture and country which has led her to do something for her own people back home.
In 2019, she started The Red Tent Society and registered as a not-for-profit organization under the Canadian laws to ensure its credibility to donors and sponsors. Their organization is currently a federally incorporated NPO with Corporations Canada, according to Ram.
In collaboration with Lunapads, a Canadian business that produces washable, cloth menstrual products, the aim of The Red Tent Society is to provide disposable sanitary napkins for a year.
After one year, the group plans to provide them with reusable napkins which can last up to eight-ten years. The reusable napkins are more sustainable and eco-friendly. In order for these women to reuse these napkins, The Red Tent Society also hopes to build washing stations by 2020 to make it easier for these women to wash their reusable sanitary napkins.
There are about 75 women registered to receive menstrual products, along with that, they are also enrolled in three day classes that will teach them about reproductive health, break down stigma around periods, and educate them about women empowerment. With these menstrual products, young girls will not have to skip school during their monthly periods.
The Red Tent Society is currently funded by sponsors mostly from the Tamil Community in Canada, some of which are Eagle Star Insurance Inc, Life 100, and Liland Insurance (a Filipino owned insurance company.) They are also collaborating with some donors in Sri Lanka including Christian International and Aram Co, Abdin Jewellers, and Uni-Royal Steel Manufacturers.
Rachel and Steffi Ram hope to collaborate with more local businesses in their hometown, Mullaitivu, to distribute menstrual products among more women. Within two years, they hope to expand their initiative to another city and provide menstrual products and hygiene education to more women.
Overall, Ram’s advice to anyone looking to give back to their community is “to look past what is going wrong in our own lives and relook outside our circle. Then, and only then you will see the problems people are facing and that is how you will find your own story.”