Delhi/Mumbai, May 28, 2019: Whisper, India’s leading feminine hygiene brand has pledged to reach out and extend the impact of its flagship ‘Mother Daughter Menstrual Health & Hygiene Program’ to 5 Crore girls by the end of 2022. As part of its commitment to increase menstrual hygiene in the country, Whisper will reach out to more than 40,000 schools across India. The pledge was made by Whisper at the ‘Need to Break Silence and Build Awareness’ event organised by ASSOCHAM to mark the occasion of ‘World Menstrual Hygiene Day’. Till last year, Whisper’s Mother Daughter Menstrual Health & Hygiene Program has already educated more than 2.5 Crore girls about menstrual hygiene, since its inception in 1995.
Vandana Gurnani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India was the Chief Guest at the event, which was also attended by Padma Shri awardee and renowned classical dancer and activist, Geeta Chandran and Foroogh Foyouzat from UNICEF India among other senior representatives from the government, industry and social organisations working towards menstrual hygiene education. Suman and Sneha, whose true story about a quiet revolution against the stigma of menstruation was featured in the Oscar winning documentary, ‘Period: End of Sentence’, were also present at the event as special guests.
Speaking at the occasion, Chetna Soni, Associate Director & Country Leader, Feminine Care, P&G said, “The biggest opportunity for the menstrual hygiene category lies in providing access and awareness of healthy menstrual hygiene practices among women across the country. Till date, even in Urban India, less than 50 percent of women use healthy menstrual hygiene protection like pads and for the rural woman and girl, this is even lower. As the industry, our focus should be to increase awareness and adoption of good quality and safe menstrual hygiene. Our pledge to extend the reach of our Menstrual Health & Hygiene Program to educate over 5 Crore adolescent girls about menstrual hygiene by 2022 is in line with this vision. We invite relevant stakeholders across the board – government, social institutions and corporates – to come together and partner with us on this initiative.”
Chetna also highlighted the importance of tackling period taboos head-on. “Till date, we continue to fight taboos and societal restrictions relating to periods, that girls face and lend our voice to empower them to be unstoppable, even during their periods. The conversations that we witness on periods, that appear so obvious today, were a huge challenge not so long ago. A monumental change has taken shape, starting with Whisper’s Cannes Glass Lion Winning campaign – Whisper ‘Touch the Pickle’ in 2014, where we first encouraged and enabled women to talk about and confront period taboos in society. Touch the Pickle was momentous, because it was the first time that anybody addressed the taboos surrounding periods head on. In the years following that campaign, we have seen a heartening increase in conversations around the importance of healthy menstrual hygiene across the board – be it from the government, noted social organisations and NGOs or from popular influencers in Bollywood.”
Whisper began the journey to normalise menstruation about three decades back; it was the first brand to show a sanitary pad, and the first to mention the word ‘periods’ in advertising. At that time, when the brand wanted to advertise on prime time, TV channels thought it was an inappropriate product to advertise. Whisper then got special permission, in order to be the first sanitary pad brand to advertise on prime time Indian television.
Offering a note of positivity towards the challenge of menstrual hygiene in India, Chetna added, “We sometimes overlook the fact that the present is still a massive, massive improvement from where we started off. When Whisper entered the market in 1989, very few women and girls were using good quality menstrual hygiene products during their periods. The menstrual hygiene products category was very small, at only Rs. 34 Crores, and today, the category has grown 100x. I see this as a reassurance that while the progress has been gradual, all these efforts are leading up to an incredible change on an everyday basis. It is with this belief that we will continue working towards 100 percent menstrual hygiene awareness and access in India.”