(New Delhi, India – January 3m 2024) Inspired by the physicians and engineers of Indian origin in the United States, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in collaboration with WHEELS Global Foundation has announced a $10,000 award towards the Project – Kanya: Sanitary Napkin Machine, during APPI’s 17th annual Global Health Summit held at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on January 3rd, 2024.
The announcement was made during a joint panel discussion held as part of the GHS on ‘Menstrual Health’ (under the banner of ‘Kanya Conference’). The Kanya Challenge Award seeks to catalyze groundbreaking advancements in menstrual hygiene for Indian women through the development and commercialization of absorbent materials made from indigenous Indian resources.
“To accelerate the journey to a fully affordable, safe, accessible, and domestically self-reliant solution, AAPI & WHEELS are jointly announcing a $10,000 Award with the objective of using the funds to accelerate affordability and access – which when achieved gets us national scale penetration, said Dr. Anjana Samadder, President of AAPI.
The Kanya Challenge Award, Transforming Menstrual Hygiene through Indigenous Innovation will be given to the entity submitting “the best plan, using the funds, to achieve material acceleration of affordability and access of an environment-friendly imports-avoiding solution, with the submissions deadline marked for March 31st, 2024.”
WHEELS and AAPI teams will have a joint panel of experts to select the winning entry for the announcement at the appropriate forum soon after. The Project – Kanya is aimed at developing a high-performance, eco-friendly absorbent material for feminine hygiene products using locally sourced Indian materials; and, commercializing the product, achieving sales and use by 100,000 consumers with at least 50% satisfaction (based on surveys by 10% of users).
The Panel Session was led by Dr. Inderpal Chhabra, Dr. Anajana Samadder, President, AAPI, Dr. Sumul Rawal, Secretary, AAPI, Anitha Thampi (of MCup), Jayadeep Mandal: Aakar Innovations & Aakar Social Ventures, Prof Virendra Kumar Vijay (of IIT-Delhi’s UBA Program) speaking on UBA supporting Saukhyam: Dr. Meenakshi Bharat, a Gynecologist and Fertility specialist who is a green campaigner, an advocate for Clean India. Prof Satish Agnihotri: Professor, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), IIT Bombay with messages from Dr. Raj Shah, Dr. Vriti Khurana Founder, Kanya Project and Ratan Agarwal, President of Wheels Global Foundation.
The panel discussion focused on the five compelling solutions we are bringing to the target beneficiaries – to not only address the unmet need for 46m rural girls and women but do it with environmentally friendly (sustainable) solutions that also eliminate India’s import bill.
The panel discussion focused on the innovations by NOBA Initiative for Menstrual Health, M-Cup by Anitha Thampi (IIT-B CTARA graduate) – supported by Prof Satish Agnihotri (IIT-B) and Prof Kannan’s Spoken Tutorials solution (to make it easy to communicate value-proposition to rural residents); Anandi Pads by Jayadeep Mandal, supported by WHEELS’ Yogesh and Arjun Malhotra, Saukhyam founded by IIT-Delhi alum Praveen Bist and Anju Bist – providing Banana fiber-based solution, and, Aashraya Seth providing a low-cost dispenser (Rs. 2,500) for schools along with education curriculum and reusable cloth-based pads.
“Kanya project” was first started by a 14-year-old girl Vriti in 2013, after she had visited a village in Telangana, deeply disturbed and saddened by the lack of support for young girls like herself. She raised funds in the US, collaborating with an Indian company “Aakaar” and had the first self-sustaining “sanitary napkin manufacturing machine” installed in Burgula, Telangana, India in 2018. Today, there are multiple companies that are working towards the same goals and we at WHEELS Global Foundation would like to take the issue of “Period Poverty” forward. (https://twitter.com/WHEELSGF/status/988154191460827136)
UNICEF reports that “in countries where menstrual hygiene is taboo, girls in puberty are typically absent for 20% of the school year”. Most girls drop out at around 11 to 12 years old and miss school not simply because they fear being teased by their classmates if they show stains from their period, but also because they are not educated about their periods, and their need for safe and clean facilities is not prioritized.
WHEELS’ objective is to drive a portfolio of solutions to address the problem at a national scale in the next 3-5 years so there is a right-fit solution to each segment – meeting affordability, accessibility, sustainability, and self-reliance for the country.
Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States are reputed to be leading health care providers, holding crucial positions in various hospitals and health care facilities around the nation and the world. Known to be a leading ethnic medical organization that represents nearly 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian Origin in the US, and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, AAPI members are proud to contribute to the wellbeing of their motherland India, and their adopted land, the United States. The convention is forum to network, share knowledge and thoughts, and thus, enrich one another, and rededicate for the health and wellbeing of all the peoples of the world. For more details, please visit: www.appiusa.org and wheelsglobal.org