The recipient of Queen’s Young Leader Award, Deane De Menezes, is breaking the taboo by speaking about periods
In 2015 when Mumbai based Deane De Menezes started an online campaign called Red Is The New Green, (RING) in order to lessen the stigma associated with menstruation in India, little did she know that her small campaign would benefit about 15,000 school going girls in Maharashtra and bring her International recognition.
Deane is one of the very few Indians to have received Queen’s Young Leader Award in 2018 awarded by HM Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace to recognise exceptional young people who are transforming their local communities. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society and UNICEF Development Partner for menstrual hygiene in Maharashtra. “It was wonderful meeting the Queen. She immediately put me at ease and spoke to me about my work and how important menstrual hygiene is. She is remarkable. For her age, she is absolutely full of energy,” recalls Deane, who met other dignitaries, such as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and retired footballer David Beckham at the ceremony.
Born in Mumbai, Deane was instilled with the idea of giving back to the society since childhood and RING is the result of her mission. In 2015 she came across some distressing statistics about menstrual hygiene in India during the course of her research. The data suggested that only 36 per cent of women in India used sanitary pads during their periods. “I couldn’t hold myself back, I had to start a conversation and I started off by encouraging open dialogue about menstrual hygiene among students through workshops and later quit my job to form RING and dedicated myself completely to the cause,” she shares.
Deane started the campaign not only to educate children, teachers and parents on sustainable menstruation, but also to make menstruation products more accessible. Since then Deane, along with her 10-member team has been hosting educational sessions for school-age girls and installing sanitary towel vending machines and eco-friendly incinerators to reduce waste in schools. And recently on this menstrual hygiene day May 28, Deane conducted menstrual health session for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, MCGM female safai karmacharis (cleaners) about Solid Waste Management department along with their development partner UNICEF Maharashtra. This is the first ever session conducted with cleaners about menstrual hygiene.
“Sweepers and BMC cleaners have never attended this kind of session.Cleaners who generally come from rural background have never been considered for this awareness,” says Deane, who covered the basics of menstruation and how to maintain hygiene during periods for about 1200 female workers in her session.
In view of Covid-19 RING launched a relief effort campaign called #PassOnThePad that aims to supply and support NGO partners on the field working with urban slum communities and underserved areas with sanitary napkins during the lockdown. So far Deane’s organisation has distributed 4,02,100 sanitary napkins to over 31,546 menstruators since November last year to prison inmates, persons with disabilities and tribal school girls across Maharashtra. “Currently during the second wave, we are focusing on providing period products to medical staff and frontline workers who are doing their best to help India breathe better,” informs Deane.
So far, Deane has solely achieved her goals of community service, however in order to reach out to more people she intends to collaborate with celebrities and brands who believe in the cause of creating a period positive planet.