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Lucknow Innovator Introduces Affordable Solution to Combat Period Poverty in India

To address the critical issue of girls dropping out of public schools due to menstrual hygiene challenges, Aashraya Seth, a visionary from Lucknow, has unveiled an ingenious solution — India’s most affordable non-electric sanitary pad vending machine priced at just Rs. 2500.

The vending machines, designed to be non-electric, sustainable, and compact, are installed in school washrooms. Girls can easily access biodegradable sanitary pads at no cost with a simple press of a button.

Beyond the vending machine, Aashraya has developed an affordable cloth pad priced at Rs. 80 and a sustainable menstrual curriculum aimed at sensitizing young people, especially boys, on menstrual hygiene.

Aashraya Seth, the brain behind The Intelligent Indian NGO and the Menstrual Hygiene Friendly Spaces initiative, recently earned recognition as a Goalkeeper by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His work in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in India took center stage at the Goalkeepers Event in New York in September 2023, where he also participated in the UN General Assembly and joined UN Women’s Generation Equality delegation on climate justice.

The genesis of Aashraya’s innovation lies in his experience working at IIT Bombay and advising state governments on enhancing the quality of education through EdTech and 21st-century skills. Recognizing gender inequities in STEM education and the alarming dropout rates of girls, he championed the cause of installing sanitary pad vending machines in public schools. However, faced with the prohibitive costs of traditional machines (Rs. 8000-10,000), Aashraya took matters into his own hands.

“I decided to develop an alternate, affordable, and easy solution that would help improve tribal and underserved girls’ participation in the classroom. Girls must practice bodily autonomy and have the right to their sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health,” says Aashraya.

Aashraya, a Computer Science and Physics graduate from the University of Lucknow, furthered his education through fully-funded fellowship programs at prestigious institutions like Churchill College, University of Cambridge; Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; and Korean Development Institute, South Korea. His commitment to gender justice also earned him a United Nations fellowship.

The Intelligent Indian NGO has successfully installed these vending machines across 150 government and Kasturba Gandhi schools in Uttar Pradesh, supporting over 70,000 girls with free eco-friendly sanitary products and menstrual education over the past three years.

Aashraya’s impactful work has garnered accolades, placing him among the top 80 social innovators in India, as recognized by NITI Aayog and UNDP India’s accelerator program. He has also received a fellowship from the Watson Institute, Colorado, a scholarship to attend the One Young World Summit in Munich, and felicitation from the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, UK.

With the Government of India releasing the draft National Menstrual Hygiene Policy, Aashraya’s team is actively seeking government adoption of the vending machines and menstrual curriculum to effectively eradicate period poverty in the country.

For media inquiries and further information regarding the vending machines and curriculum, please contact Aashraya Seth at aashraya.seth@watson.is or visit the NGO website at https://theintelligentindian.org.

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