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Goonj: Access, awareness & affordability; menstruation solutions with the masses

New Delhi, IndiaGuptkashi, Uttarkashi, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Opening up most taboo & ignored subject of menstrual hygiene;a female health hazard by involving masses in generating an affordable cloth napkin.Using it as tool to make rural women more aware about menstrual health & hygiene.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if women could talk about menstruation as a normal biological process, have access to menstrual health information and have enough clean cloth to deal with their menses in a environmentally safe way?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Women in village India commonly use all kinds of rags,ash etc. as sanitary napkin in absence of enough clean cloth & they can’t even talk about it as it’s a big taboo inducing a ‘culture of shame & silence’.A women died of tetanus from the hook in the blouse she used as sanitary napkin.In Mumbai slums women dry napkins behind doors & remove it before male members come, using it again with dirt & moisture.Many don't use ANYTHING during menses.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

For 16 years we have been highlighting to urban masses, role their discarded cloth can play in lives of their village counterparts.We focus on three A’s of issue; Access,affordability & awareness around menstruation.In Not Just a Piece of Cloth (NJPC) work we involve urban masses on menstrual taboos & how it’s monthly disaster for village women.Surplus urban cotton cloth is turned into MY Pads,used as tool to create awareness on related health issues for rural women.Familiarity with cloth as pads & reuse possibilities makes it viable option for them. NJPC starts with reaching physical product but stresses more on changing practices,behaviour change,education.Network of over 250 grass-roots partner groups implement in parts of 21 states.


Ramon Magsaysay award 2015 to Anshu Gupta, Schwab fellowship to Anshu Gupta, Feb’12: GOONJ won ‘Edelgive’ award in health & well- being category, June’09: NJPC Winner of Changemaker’s Innovation Award, Winner of World Bank’s Global DM Place 2007
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Impact is on many levels in cities & villages.People feel uncomfortable talking about the subject but universality & fundamental nature of issue, horror stories resulting from complete neglect & simplicity of solution consistently draws a why didn’t we think about it response.Overwhelming feedback from rural women about their practices & problems indicates their longing for outlet they didn’t have among their peers or family.For end user woman impact every month on the kind of cloth/material she uses during menses.For urban women,ability to make difference in lives of their village counterparts,given their instinctive empathy on issue.For grassroots groups, ability to exploit their involvement in strengthening their connect with women.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Awareness building meetings are as important as number of MY Pads reached out to women in far flung villages.Every year Goonj holds more than 300 village awareness meetings in more than 250 villages.Annually we reach over 3,o0,000 MY Pads across India with thousands of undergarments. Sessions are held in collages & schools in cities to break culture of shame & silence in cities.We plan to reach 500 villages by next year apart from large scale replication on different levels.GOONJ focuses on most far flung remote villages.Our work is drawing attention of masses,government,big health agencies & grassroots NGO’s towards widespread lack of awareness & investigation into this issue.Organizations are starting to make separate projects on production of pads,SHGs are trying this as income generation activity leading management institutes are presenting business plans on this subject.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Given universal nature of menses there is ready audience for clean cloth napkins BUT even at our fastest pace capacities will lag given volume of problem.We use MY Pads as entry point into lives of women,making them speak up about their menstrual challenges.With almost non-existent choices we show them how to make best of limited resources, saving lives & impacting quality of lives struggling for basics.Motivating organizations in India and other countries to replicate model & advocating it as big health issue on national/ international forums are some strategic steps to spread.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

It involves multiple urban & rural stakeholders & runs on recycled material;cloth to washing machines.Volunteers organize cloth collection camps,citizens offer space as dropping centers, export houses, big suppliers send surplus in bulk,transport is borne by local partners & people contribute financially.Rural women are charged nominally & urban women are motivated to sponsor for their rural counterparts under 60 Dignified Days campaign.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Practical,affordable & environment friendly sanitary napkins are on experimental level in India.Market pads are unaffordable,inaccessible & environmentally harmful.Villages still survives on old cloth.Most entities are experimenting with product.There’s little attention to awareness building on menstrual health & hygiene & breaking culture of shame & silence to understand women’s challenges.Menstrual health is on mapping of health sector;evident connection this has with serious women’s health hazards still hasn't translated into remedial action.

Founding Story

In rural travels Anshu Gupta (founder)found stories of a woman dying of tetanus as blouse she used as sanitary pad had hook inside.In congested lanes of slum (Mumbai)he found women drying their napkins behind doors & removing it before male members returned & using it again with dirt & moisture.In Bihar he found women didn’t use ANYTHING during menses in dire compulsion. Poverty,culture of shame & silence adds to hardships & indignity besides health risks.Working on larger clothing need he knew that majority didn’t even have extra clean piece of cloth.From un-wearable urban cloth he evolved solution by involving masses & opening up the taboo issue.


GOONJ has offices in 11 cities. The Head office is in Delhi with project coordinators and total team of 300 across India. All the chapters have full rights and guidance to implement programs locally. We work primarily through our volunteers, a large number of women among them, from all walks of life. The core team consists of experienced, committed and dedicated team members who are multi talented working on NJPC initiative lead by one of the founders. Team is divided into two parts 1 Urban -> a. processing & production team (in Delhi) b. urban interaction, communication, training & research team (spread across major metros – Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad etc.).Many women making My Pads actually use them. 2. Rural -> team interacts with our grassroots partner organizations,implements field operations, conducts village meetings,takes awareness sessions & distributes MY Pads plus take feedback from different stakeholders.Team is experienced in interacting with rural masses given our deep entrenched work for last 16 years. Well trusted & tested partner network. We are strengthening R&D work with specialized skills team members around our NJPC work to further highlight evidence for replication of model in other societies with similar needs.
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

Business model will emerge from both entities working from space of their strengths to complement each others work. Goonj has one of the strongest on ground work in cities & villages which has given us insights,experience & in depth understanding about needs & challenges of women we work with. Boehringer Ingelheim has global exposure, in depth knowledge, expertise of health sector & reach on the international policy level.Combination of these two complimentary aspects can be sure fire formula for successful initiative.In India and across Asia,we can help spread & replicate with our learnings while Boehringer Ingelheim can use our goodwill,trust & solid work built over the last 16 years to nurture policy level intervention.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Research and Development, Relationships/New Contacts, Legal Support, Technology Expertise, Public Policy Knowledge, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

NJPC is proven sustainable,cost effective & highly replicable model & body of work across India on menstrual hygiene management & behavioral change.Our priority is documentation & research for impact related evidence for replication of model in other economies where women are facing similar challenges;lack of viable,environmentally safe product, environment which allows them to speak freely about their menstrual challenges,health sector that doesn’t include menstrual health & society that treats menstruation as taboo.This calls for work on communication,behavioural change & advocacy.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Deep understanding of an unmet need in a specific market/context, Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into pricing and financing of health products/services, Insights into distribution, Insights into behavior change, Other.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Improving the affordability of healthcare (e.g., microinsurance, reducing the economic cost of care), Increasing physical access to healthcare to people with restricted mobility or restricted access (senior people, people with disability, remote or difficult areas, etc.), Holistic solutions that work across the entire care continuum (including education, prevention, detection, treatment, management, follow-up), Models that engage other industry players (e.g., nutrition, athletic, mobility organizations)., Remote care solutions for health management, treatment, and diagnosis, Packaging of health products and services to address needs currently unmet.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together
Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea
How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?
Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?
What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?
Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.
What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?
Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?
How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?
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