Menstruation, a phenomenon that does not exist for our society. For years there has been a huge stigma attached to it that any talk regarding period hygiene is instantly brushed under the carpet.
The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) has not only acknowledged but has also become the first ever university in Pakistan to install Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines. A total of 4 vending machines werwe installed across both of its campuses in Karachi in late August 2020.
The news was a breath of fresh air for hundreds of girls who know and understand the pain of going up to random stranger females asking for a sanitary napkin.
An email was circulated to the entire student body notifying the students about the placement of “Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines” at the IBA campuses. The machines have been installed at:
- Adamjee Building Girls Washroom – IBA Main Campus
- Girls Hostel Washroom
- Students’ Centre Girls Washroom – IBA Main Campus
- Faysal Bank Building Girls Washroom – IBA City Campus
A Moment of Pride for the IBA Community
The Institute of Business Administration has taken a much-needed step towards facilitating and empowering its female students. Making sanitary napkins readily available for female students on campus promotes convenience for female students, and cultivates a more protective and inclusive environment for girls at IBA.
All this can be attributed to Dr. Nida Aslam Khan, the Patron of IBA Students Council’s, consistent and unfailing efforts to facilitate her students.
Dr. Nida Aslam has been associated with IBA since 2005, as a lecturer and currently also serves as the Patron of IBA Student Council (ISC) since 2018; she is also an IBA Alumna. Dr Nida was the lead of the entire project and takes great pride and accomplishment since the students are extremely happy. It is because of her undying efforts and determination that the “Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines” project was finally brought to completion.
WOW360 connected with Dr. Nida Aslam to gather some exclusive insights on the historic hygiene initiative and here is what she had to say in her interview:
What motivated you to bring about this change and push forward for a sanitary napkin vending machine at IBA?
When I joined as the Student Counselor in 2018, there were a lot of female students who came to me and put forward their issues and concerns. The first task at hand was to get the elections done at IBA. Once that was done, and fortunately a female was elected as the General secretary, who was Amna Kashmiri, I called them to my office and asked them to share their input regarding improvement of overall campus life.
Amna was very clear on the hygiene goal and since I had taught her before, she knew I am very receptive and listen to students’ concerns and try to facilitate them in whatever way I can.
I asked Amna to get a survey done, because we are talking about a student body of almost 4000 people. She went ahead with that and 500 female students responded to the survey and highlighted the need for a machine like this on campus.
How difficult was it to push this through and get it implemented, since period hygiene is a taboo in our society?
I had a very clear vision. Though I wear a hijab, I am very receptive and open to discussion about any issue, as long as it facilitates the students. Period hygiene is something very natural and we should encourage women to talk about this issue. Even in our homes, we should try talking about this openly rather than hushing the subject as taboo.
I have been a student at IBA myself and have faced similar issues. So when Amna put this forward, myself and her were very clear because we are females and were able to relate. Maybe a male patron would not have related to this, because previously there was a male student counselor, and nothing like this has ever happened in the history of IBA, or Pakistan.
I talked to a lot of females on campus, even female faculty members were facing this issue!
We had the budget; it was all about allocating that budget in the right manner. If the students are paying for extra curriculars, the money should be allocated to something that benefits them and provides them with convenience. It was the student’s money that was allocated and used for this project.
According to Dr. Nida, girls should feel at home and comfortable at IBA. There are so many girls living at the girl’s hostel who faced problems because of unavailability of menstrual products.
One of the best outcomes of this was that it got the boys talking about period hygiene and acknowledging it as something natural.
The students are VERY VERY happy and I feel so accomplished! It took me two years but I got this done. It was a great learning experience for me since there were so many stakeholders involved and I hadn’t done a project like this before, but I believe as long as the goal and vision is clear, nothing is impossible.
She appreciates Associate Dean Dr. Huma Baqai’s support and is glad that a female held this position at IBA, which was a plus factor and made the process easier.
Amna Kashmiri- The Girl Who Paved Way for the Hygiene Initiative at IBA
Amna Kashmiri, IBA Student Council’s General Secretary 2018-2019, knew what her priority was going to be when she started her tenure at the student council in her 4th year of Bachelor’s at IBA. Amna Kashmiri had requested for the provision of menstrual hygiene supplies for female students.
I’d call myself super lucky to have a supportive patron, Dr. Nida Aslam Khan, who not only supported the idea but also did all that she could in making it a reality, says Amna.
Here is what Amna had to say when interviewed by WOW360 exclusively:
Situation at IBA was no different than any other related to menstrual hygiene in the country, and I think it all started during my freshman year when I and many other girls I knew had to go through so much trouble just to find sanitary napkins in a situation of emergency. Walking up to complete strangers and asking for sanitary napkins had become a norm.
In fact, we had several groups just so we could stay connected and help each other incase mother nature decided to run its course. Although all the hassle did cultivate an environment of empathy and compassion amongst the girls, we knew there had to be a permanent solution for this.
The Hygiene Initiative may seem trivial to some, but it is revolutionary for Amna. Revolutionary because there is now acknowledgment of the existence of such a phenomenon – menstruation (which, by the way, is a feat in itself). Acknowledgement of the need that arises due to it and an action plan to resolve an issue that was faced by half of the population on campus.
Through the initiative, IBA also aims to highlight that there is a dire need to make places more female-friendly. It’s time we start speaking about the basic necessities. It’s time we start acknowledging!
IBA-ians are proud of you, Amna! And so grateful to Dr. Nida and everyone who was a part of this historic initiative at the IBA campus.
Another student of IBA, Ayesha Mehmood, who assisted the ISC and Dr. Nida in highlighting issues of GCR [girls common room] and maintenance of female washrooms, to make campus more female friendly, had the following to say on the installation of vending machines:
The entire team spirit and the sincere efforts of Ms. Nida Aslam, Student Patron IBA, proved to bring the change that was much needed in today’s time. We look forward to going back on campus and availing the facility of the newly installed vending machine!
It’s high time we eliminate the stigma attached to menstruation and provide a comfortable environment to the ladies at workplaces and educational institutions- making convenient hygiene options available for them to roam freely without any worries or hassle.
Here is hoping this change is here to stay and other educational institutions in Pakistan learn to facilitate women by making menstrual hygiene products available to them.
All hail IBA for championing women empowerment and setting an example for the rest!
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