Just a cloth piece ?

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
Designing for Better Health competition.

Opening up the most taboo & ignored subject of menstrual hygiene; a female health hazard by involving masses in generating an affordable cloth napkin

About You

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Project Street Address

GOONJ, J-93, Sarita Vihar

Project City

New Delhi

Project Province/State

New Delhi

Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country


Your idea

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Year organization founded:


Year initiative began:


Service/activity focus:


If Service/activity focus is "other" please define in 1-2 words below:

menstrual hygiene

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Name Your Project

Just a cloth piece ?

Describe Your Idea

Opening up the most taboo & ignored subject of menstrual hygiene; a female health hazard by involving masses in generating an affordable cloth napkin


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What is your signature innovation, your new idea, in one sentence?

Opening up the most taboo & ignored subject of menstrual hygiene; a female health hazard by involving masses in generating an affordable cloth napkin

Describe what makes your idea unique--different from all others in the field.

Menses and menstrual hygiene falls in the most neglected health subjects worldwide. Millions of women use sand, wood ash, old rags, newspapers & even plastic bags due to non-availability of sanitary pads in India.

We even found cases like a women used a piece of blouse & died of tetanus due to a rusted hook, a lady died as a centipede entered her body through the dirty cloth she used. Shame & silence associated with the issue makes it the most taboo subject even among women. The irony is that even the biggest health/RCH projects don’t have a budget for sanitary pads.

This is a nationwide intervention, which starts with providing a physical product but stresses more on changing practices, behavior change, education & replication in the long term. The clean cloth pad is developed out of old cloth collected from urban masses. Its made with highly indigenous processes at a cost of just 60 paisa each ($.011) while we also teach the user women to make it on their own.

Do you have any existing partnerships, and if so, how did you create them?

GOONJ is running a nationwide movement highlighting the importance of cloth as a basic need of the poor. In the cities, we involve masses: corporates, collages, schools, hospitals, hotels, individuals, professionals etc.-about the important role their discarded cloth can play in the lives of their resource starved village counterparts. We tell urban women about the taboo & the lack of awareness on menses, how it’s a monthly disaster for their village counterparts. They are involved in spreading awareness, collecting & channelising of the material. In parts of 21 states of India, we have built partnerships with a network of over 150 grassroots groups including units of India army, NGOs, CBOs, Panchayats, social activities & Ashoka fellows, where GOONJ material helps strengthen their work with the communities. They reach the material to the final user. Without much extra investment, just by strengthening the existing work this initiative is spreading fast.

In which sector do these partners work? (Check all that apply)

Citizen sector (non profits, NGOs) , Private sector , Public sector (government) , Academic sector (universities).


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Provide one sentence describing your impact/intended impact.

Widespread attention on menstrual hygiene as a critical health issue. Wider idea replication by establishing clean cloth pad as a viable solution.

Please list any other measures of the impact of your innovation.

Village indicators

1. Number of partner groups working with us on the issue.
2. Number of women using the GOONJ pads .
3. No. of partner groups, taken intiative of pad production locally.

1. How do women deal with shortfall in the supply of GOONJ pads?
2. Is this program helping spread awareness on the issue from one to more family members?
3. The incidence of reproductive and other related infections among the beneficiaries
4. Usage patterns and practices of these napkins

City Indicators

1. No of awareness cum collection camps organised by volunteers & Corporates.
2. Quantity of material being sorted every month at the GOONJ processing center.
3. No of napkins being made each day

1. The kind of cloth being donated by people. For cloth sanitary napkins, we emphasise the need for cotton cloth.
2. The number of women volunteering to work on spreading awareness
3. The number of meetings and forums we address on the issue.

Is there a policy intervention element to your innovation?

Our work is drawing attention of the masses, government departments, big health agencies & small grassroots NGO’s towards the widespread lack of awareness and investigation into this neglected women’s health issue. A number of organizations have started making separate projects on production of pads, SHGs & Women groups are trying this as an income generation activity while students from leading management institutes are presenting business plans on this subject and product.

How many people does your innovation serve or plan to serve? Exactly who will benefit from your innovation?

We are making about 100,000 pads every month, benefiting about 20,000 women every month. The plan is to reach about 100,000 women in an years time apart from a large scale replication on different levels. Our focus is on women still struggling for the basics like enough cloth to change into. Sharing one saree by two women is a very common reality here. GOONJ primarily works in the most backward, tribal and disaster prone remote villages of the country.

What is the key decision that you are trying to influence through your innovation/design?

For the end user women, the critical decision every month, on the kind of cloth/material she uses during menses.
For urban women, the decision to make a difference in the lives of their village counterparts, given their instinctive empathy & understanding of the issue.
For rural grassroots groups, the decision to exploit their involvement in strengthening their connect with communities especially women.
For Government & health agencies to address this critical gap area in women’s health work.

What have you learned about how people respond to your innovation/design?

The taboo aspect; people across the society feel uncomfortable talking about the subject.

The universality & fundamental nature of the issue, the horror stories resulting from its complete neglect & the simplicity of the solution; consistently draw a ‘why didn’t we think about it’ response.

Despite the initial reluctance, the overwhelming feedback from rural women, about their practices & problems indicates their longing for an outlet they don’t find even among their peers or family.

This Entry is about (Issues)


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How is your initiative financed (or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)?

It involves multiple stakeholders. Entire project runs on recycled material right from clothes to washing machines.

Volunteers organize camps to collect old clothes-main raw material,citizens have offered space as permanent collection center, corporates contribute newspapers to make packing bags. Export houses send surplus in bulk, transport is borne by the local partners & people contribute financially.

Rural woman is charged a small amount & urban women are motivated to sponsor under the campaign-“ when you go thru menses, think of a rural counterpart who doesn’t even have a cloth to cover herself”

Production in villages will further reduce the logistical cost and SHG’s will make it self-sufficient income generation activity.

Financing source

Annual budget

Rs. 50 lakhs

Annual revenue generated

Rs. 60 lakhs

Number of staff (full-time, part-time, volunteers)

Full time - 90, part time- 20, volunteers- 300+

What are the main financial barriers, and how do you plan to address them?

Charging end beneficiary is tough as we are trying to reach poorest of poor who can’t afford even one meal a day. Involving urban women as sponsor, low cost operations and local level production are providing solution to this. Rural women contribute under Cloth for work programme.

A new and taboo subject does not attract corporate or agencies support- mass level awareness, transparent systems and regular feedback has helped us in addressing this point

Aside from financial sustainability, how do you plan to grow and scale the initiative?

We want to spread the idea as widely as possible by a. getting enough cloth into lives of these women b. Make cloth pads an entry point to get them to discuss mis-conceptions about menses c. wider village level production to further mainstream the issue d. motivate organizations in other cities to replicate our model, ensuring a multiplier effect e. Advocate it as a big health issue on national and international forums, attracting more investment and stakeholders.

The Story

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What was the motivation or defining moment that led to the creation of this innovation? Tell the story.

During his extensive travels, in his interactions with women, Anshu Gupta (founder GOONJ) found stories of a women dying untimely due to tetanus because the blouse piece she used as a sanitary pad had a hook inside. Another women died as a centipede entered her body through a dirty napkin. In the congested lanes of Dharavi slum (Mumbai), Anshu found women drying their napkins behind doors and removing it (even if wet) before male members returned home & using it again with dirt & moisture. In some Moosahari villages of Bihar, he came across women who didn’t have anything to change into and they didn’t use ANYTHING during menses, in dire compulsion. The poverty, the culture of shame & silence, further added to the hardships & indignity, besides health risks, due to this problem. Despite this extremely grim scenario, we found that issues right from domestic violence to global warming being talked about but no mention of this basic need in the development sector.
Having spent many years on highlighting clothing as an ignored basic need, Anshu could easily understand that even a basic, like access to a clean piece of cloth, was not available to a vast majority. In our work we got a lot of un-wearable cloth in material we collected, with no ready outlet. The social entrepreneur in him connected these two gap areas, involved the masses to mobilize awareness and bring out in the open this taboo but important health issue.

Please name and provide a personal bio of the social innovator behind this initiative.

Anshu Gupta studied Mass communication & a PG in Economics. As a student he traveled to an earthquake hit Uttarkashi;living in tents & helping in relief efforts. This first real exposure to the problems of rural masses shocked his urban sensibilities. He later left a multinational job in 1998 to work on his idea,GOONJ.
Over 10 years GOONJ has grown as a nationwide movement, a first in making clothing a matter of concern. An Ashoka Fellow, Anshu travels extensively and has won many awards.

At what stage is this initiative?

Implemented with replication and scale-up.

What resources would you need to take your initiative to the next stage?

The resources are needed primarily to spread the idea widely. We need more forums to highlight the issue, transport support to spread it deeper, more volunteers to organize camps. For a wider spread we need a bigger network of motivated NGO’s and civil sector organizations in urban and rural India to replicate the idea on their own level. On the other end contacts are needed to find ways of tapping into the vast quantities of cloth sitting idle in urban homes across the country.

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (Confidential)

Through Changemakers and Ashoka’s newsletter/mails. we find it to be an effective and credible forum attracting the right kind of audiences, interaction and learning. Like this time, even the defining of the word nudge in terms of designing a programme, was a new perspective we learnt. It’s something we were doing already but the outlook added a new dimension to it.

301 weeks ago Fran Holuba said: On May 11, 2009, the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers “Designing for Better Health” competition and would ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
304 weeks ago Amelia Forrest Kaye updated this Competition Entry.
304 weeks ago Just a cloth piece ? has been chosen as a winner in Designing for Better Health.
306 weeks ago Tori Tuncan said: Hi Anshu! I am a fellow finalist in this competition and was excited to read about and vote for your initiative. I really like what ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago Naga VishnuKanth I said: Hello.. Congrats for this achievement..If you're working for a good cause, many people will recognize your work at some point or the ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago Shivani Mathur said: Dear GOONJ, Congratulations for being selected one of the finalists and the project goal deserves it. Wishing all the ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago Enakshi Bhardwaj said: Dear Anshu, A very noble job with a great purpose. I wish you all the very best for all your initiatives for the welfare of mankind. ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago Poornima Mysore said: Hey I had met you at a conference and was really amazed to know about your project and all the work Goonj is doing...its great to know ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago kalyan akkipeddi said: Anshu, your goal is inspiring... First, it sensitizes the relatively fortunate people to the issues of millions of invisible lives. ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
306 weeks ago Vinisha Kanjilal said: To refashion an old fashioned way of taking care of a bloody issue while paying attention to basic issues like cloth cleanliness is a ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >