Scindia Kanya Vidyala
SKV-Sankalp Project at Jarga

Mrs. Nishi Misra, Principal of my alma mater, Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior, sent me a video, casually mentioning it was one of the current projects the students were undertaking. 

The six minutes spent watching ‘Why Should I Whisper?’ was a feel-good eye-opener. It made me truly proud to see how, through these young SKVians, Sankalp (literally, a pledge) had become a “livelihood mission for rural women”.

Started in 2012, Sankalp has since grown into a full-fledged enterprise with outreach to Jarga (25 km from Gwalior), and three other neighbouring villages. Additionally, SKV has been regularly stepping in to provide sanitary napkins to women affected by natural calamities. In 2014, Kashmir floods; 2015, Nepal earthquake; 2018, Kerala floods. During the current lockdown, 11,400 Sankalp sanitary napkins were given to the Dept. of Food & Civil Supplies, Gwalior, to support underprivileged women.

To reach where they are today, the students researched for over 15 months. Their survey showed that a large population of Gwalior lives in slums with no access to water and sanitation. Hygiene and cleanliness especially for women, was negligible and the lowest priority. The awareness and availability of products like sanitary napkins was absent. 

The attached video shows a reconstruction of the SKV Sankalp program narrated by Class 12 students – Palomi Jain, Soumya Shivani, and Jahanvi Saraswat (Class of 2020). SKV’s street theatre group, symbolically dressed in white with red dupattas, indicating menstruation blood, discuss the ‘biologically normal’ mahavari – monthly period – with the village women. 

A pioneer of Sankalp, Nishi Misra, speaks about the project’s initiation and commencement at SKV. “When our girls returned after their initial visit to Jarga, it was gratifying to see their enthusiasm. They were clearly determined to improve the hygiene of these rural women. Logically, with a sanitary pad. We installed an indigenous machine invented by Mr. A. Muruganantham, who initiated the low-cost sanitary napkin revolution in the country. The movie Padman, with Akshay Kumar in the titular role, was based on the innovator’s life.”

The Principal continues, “Initially, some students and teachers were trained to produce 600 low-cost bio-degradable sanitary pads. Since then there has been no looking back. Once our product was ready, the field work started at Jarga. A profit-making Business Model Summary was developed and implemented by our Commerce students to set up units in villages as an entrepreneurial venture. We put this into operation with a lot of fanfare, installing machines for the SKV Sankalp-Jarga initiative at the village centre. This has become our flagship village – our Karmabhoomi.” 

Interspersed in the video are the life-transforming stories of some Jarga women. Despite initial hesitation, of perhaps stepping into the unknown, Rajkumari Devi reveals, “earlier we rewashed and reused rags, and eventually buried them. We then saw sanitary napkins for the first time. Now under the Sankalp project, we are making and selling them at Rs. 20 per packet of eight pads. We are transported to a new world. We stood up to walk. We will not halt now. We will create our own success story.” 

Adds Urmila Devi, “Menstruation is God’s gift to us women, so why should we be ashamed of it? Every month “mahina to aana he hai (our period will come).”  

Their passion is palpable. An example that brings this to light (pun unintended), was when these enthusiastic housewives would remove bulbs from their own homes at night to light up the manufacturing center to enable them to work till past midnight. 

Encouraged by the success of Sankalp, and the extended Jarga family, one upgraded machine each was installed in SKV and at Jarga. These were Bhopal-based Rag Innovations’ semi-automatic Sanitary Napkin Making Machines, at a cost of Rs. 100,000. It is capable of producing up to 1,600 double die, low-cost ultra-thin, winged sanitary pads per eight-hour shift. This resulted in multiple improvements comprising compact sealing and an increase in production leading to enhanced selling capability.

Production assembly line involves the simple machines being laid out on eight stations – each the size of a student’s study desk. The process begins with tearing the raw cotton sheets and mixing them with binding cotton in a Mixer Jar. The material is weighed and 12 grams portioned into the moulds and compressed under an air-powered stamp. After inserting a water-proof strip, this initial napkin is sealed into absorbent tissue-cloth. An adhesive is applied and covered with a strip of oil-paper which can be stripped off to set the napkin in place. A maternity version with longer ‘tails’ is also being manufactured. At the end of the assembly line, the napkin is sterilised in a UV chamber. Sets of eight napkins are packed together in  cling film and are ready for distribution.

Under SKV’s Sponsorship Program, a market link has been established for these products. Further support is given to Jarga through purchasing their surplus packets and distributing these free of cost during SKV’s mission to make further inroads into another – and yet another – village. 

Due to its highly affordable cost, enquiries are flooding in from hospitals, NGOs, and other women’s organisations for purchasing this product. This has set Nishi thinking of working out a small-scale industry model in order to make it a self-sustaining venture.

SKV Principal Mrs. Nishi Misra distributing Sankalp Sanitary Pads to underprivileged women
Steps in manufacturing pads
Inserting a waterproof strip into the pad 

Recognition for Sankalp has come in the form of Nishi Misra receiving the Alexander Award from the Commonwealth Award for Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Education (CASTME), London (2014). The involvement of alumni, Aparajita Singh with Sankalp resulted in the Davis Projects for Peace Award, London (2015). The funding of US$10,000 received went towards setting up a similar unit in Virpur village which was functional by August 2015.

Nishi sums Sankalp’s premier enterprise as, “The income earned by the women at Jarga has seen an impressive growth not only in their confidence and self-esteem but also in them and their families, lifestyle – and further in their aspirations. This is really gratifying. If the mindsets can be changed, that’s half the battle won. Sankalp – or the resolution the students have made to reach out to the rural women, has become such a meaningful activity in the school. It will certainly have a far-reaching effect – affecting generations to come.” 

And Sankalp’s journey continues through the initiative of the SKV students to help more women live with dignity and enhance gender sensitisation.

The Sankalp initiative spiraled me back to our days at SKV. We were the early batches. Some of us joined on a historic Day One – 1st August 1956, and others followed shortly after. 

Upon seeing the Sankalp video Usha Raje (Scindia) Rana, Batch of 1959, commented, “This is a great initiative. Was so pleased and proud to see SKV girls inculcated with such good values and attending to their projects, like Sankalp, with such passion and interest.” 

One of our founder-teachers, Sushama (Moghe) Varma, (1956–1965), who then 25 years old, joined a month earlier, on 1st July 1956. Now still an active, alert 89-year old, she says, “Was very glad to see this Sankalp project and proud of our school for taking this initiative. Going back 64 years, oh! yes, I vividly recall some of us teachers took the lead to tell the students about puberty and the onset of monthly periods. Nobody spoke to a gathering of girls, but as a house-mother, I was with the younger girls who would be growing up in my care, I talked it over with Sudha tai (Mrs. Sudha Tilak) who was in charge of our kitchen and was older and more experienced than me. She replied, “tell them casually, don’t make ‘an issue’ out of it.” Remember, it was an era when ‘The Period’ was mentioned in hushed whispers.  

“Sometimes, while doing Dormitory rounds, I would speak to the girls, mostly in Sixth Class – possibly 10/12 years old. Told them about what ‘periods’ were and what they would experience when it happened. And there was no need to feel frightened or ashamed. Among them, Asha Gupta said, haan mujhe pata hai. Perhaps her mother had told her. Lata Jai seemed a bit confused and not very happy. Livleen was the easiest one about it all being a normal part of growing up. But all the girls accepted it. I think it was around 1960 we started getting Sirona sanitary pads in bulk. Another housemistress was in charge of them. Packets were given to the girls but charged to their accounts. In case of an emergency, a pad or two was given free to any girl or teacher.”

Over to Asha (Goel) Aggarwal, 1961 Batch, who even ‘manufactured’ the first pads before Sirona arrived. “Since 1958, we mainly Home Science students, Class 9 and above, would sit in the Dhobi Room and make sanitary pads from gauze and cotton wool for all the older hostel girls. I think I made these for almost three years. Helping us make these pads was that strong, hefty Leela bai who used to help carry our trunks upstairs. I would say Leela bai prepared us better for the onset of puberty than anyone else! During vacations, before going back to school, my mother took me to a shop in Connaught Place, perhaps Jainsons. They sold plastic lined panties for period days to prevent leakage. Nirmala Mukherjee didi, our sports teacher, insisted we continue playing during those days too. In fact, I performed much better during that time. Funny, naah?”, she remembers,  

Livleen (Dhillon) Kalhon, 1962 Batch, laughingly recalls, “We would say things like ‘Sailing in a Red River’, referring to our period! We initially washed and reused cloth. Did not like this chore every month. We started using Sirona pads during our last two years in school.” 

Bharati (Naik) Sukhatankar, 1962 Batch, says “We mostly used cloth strips, which were then washed and dried on the towel stands on the terrace. 

Nisha (Bahadur) Jaitly, 1965 Batch, remembers calling Sirona packets, “sweet boxes,” so the juniors remained ignorant of the contents! 

Perhaps there is a link between the women SKV-Sankalp is introducing sanitary pads to – and the time when we were introduced to Sirona 60 years ago! 

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Amita Sarwal
Amita Sarwal

After an erratic 10-year practice as a homeopathic doctor, Amita took to writing in 1973.  Her 45+ year career encompasses contributions to a very extensive gamut of magazines and newspapers- in India and abroad-on lifestyle, travel, architecture, personalities, book, and restaurant reviews, etc.  
During her 21 years based in Singapore, she was an Editor with the renowned publisher Editions Didier Millet and completed six pictorial encyclopedias on Indonesia and Malaysia among other coffee table books.  Her personal passion was writing ‘The spirit of SKV’- Chronicle of a Girls’ School to mark the Golden Jubliee (2006) of her alma mater Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior.
Now Amita has an increasingly strong focus on featuring Changemakers/Unsung heroes of India who are helping make a difference to society-“because the world needs to know about their exemplary work.”  Yoga, social work to help the underprivileged, reading and collecting forms of Lord Ganesh also keep her busy.

Read more by Amita Sarwal


Text by Amita Sarwal 
Informative inputs and photographs courtesy SKV, Gwalior

59 thoughts on “Sankalp”

  1. Amita Sarwal’s sensitive dealing of the subject of menstruation and her obvious pride in her Alma Mater’s community service project, Sankalp, make for a literary treat with a twist of nostalgia. The Sanitary Napkin Manufacturing project by Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya has inspired many and continues to receive great support from her Old Girls.

    1. Nishi, happy to share the deservingly commendable SKV-Sankalp story with a larger audience. Impressive to see the new initiatives blossoming under your tutelage.
      Thanks for getting our pioneer generation of SKV girls relinked with our alma mater.
      The last time this was done was by then Principal Suniti Sharma for our Golden Jubilee in 2006!

  2. Eloquently penned Amita .Having been a part of SKV , I have seen the passion, enthusiasm and the hard work put in by Mrs Nishi Misra and the students of SKV for this project . Overcoming all the obstacles and making this dream project materialize was a mammoth task but both the principal and the students did not let anything deter them . The memories of your school days have added a personal touch and made it absorbing

    1. Thanks Nabia.
      Looking forward to connecting on the Virtual Alumni-Students Career Decisions & Knowledge Sharing sessions.

  3. Amita has vividly described how coming of age (puberty) was subtley explained to an innocent girl. Accolades that our students received for Sankalp project makes me proud of my Alma Mater.
    For me who joined school since its inception, our journalist friend is binding force between what was and what is..
    Amita has kept the flock together with our reminences of those Red Letter Days ! Vy

  4. Reading the article brought back so many memories, recollected all these conversations and Leela Bai’s help. Amazing how much change is there from those days of “whisper” and now.
    Beautifully penned article Amita.
    Continue doing the good job SKVians. I am proud of my alma mater.

  5. Well written article about an inspiring project. Young girls helping other young girls accept and deal with a natural phenomena goes a long way towards instilling self confidence at a critical stage in their lives.

  6. Congratulations, Amita!
    Informative, with a personal touch. I left SKV in 1958. So proud of my alma mater.

  7. Happy & proud when I visited SKV to see how Principal Nishi Misra’s iniiative has transformed the life of so many women, & what a worthwhile learning experience it is for the students.
    During a Regional Round Square project in which students of schools across the country participated, it was heartening to hear that even boys pitched in to make the napkins.

    1. Suniti, as mentioned above to Nishi, many of us are grateful to you for reuniting us during the Golden Jubilee. If it hadn’t been for you being at the helm of SKV in 2006, the Spirit of SKV – Chronicle of a Girls’ School perhaps may not have ever happened.

  8. As allways Amita Didi has conveyed this sensitive topic so beautifully and brought in memories of many old students and especially the input Of Sudha Taijee.So proud of the excellent work done by our SKV students.Frankly I dont have memories of how all this began in school however very interesting to hear about others experiences!

  9. What a commendable article ,not only because of it,s subject but on it,s presentation as well.This project undertaken by the students of SKV under the guidance of the Pioneer ,Principal Mrs.Nishi Misra has a reason to be successful and so well received .The menstruation cycle with it,s problems faced by the rural women have not only been studied and understood by the SKV Sankalp girls but they have taken active measures to bring about awareness and awakening to their personal health and hygiene and furthermore providing them with Sanitary napkins for the same .
    As you have rightly summed it, it has brought dignity and confidence in there lives and as Rajkumari Devi
    said ..”transported them to a new world . Very well done !

  10. This article on Project’Sankalp’ written by Amita Didi brought back a host of lovely memories of my years at SKV.Congratulations to the Principal for initiating the Project and Amita Didi for writing about it so sensitively.
    The Sirona packets remain a part of my memories of growing up!

  11. Principal Nishi Misra aggressive involvement with the deprived ,and the disadvantaged , and concerns for the dignity of women, and her sensitizing her young evolving students has been feelingly captured by Amita Sarwal. Amita has described and depicted with a strength and eloquence that has touched
    us all. It is indeed a proud moment for us. Thank you Amita.

  12. We all are in this together, Livleen. You have the added honour of joining SKV the day it opened on 1st August 1956!

  13. So nice to read about the achievements of project Sankalp. Congratulations Nishi for helping the current students to think of the underprivileged world.Eish you success in the new enterprise you have undertaken.
    Also was glad to hear about Sushamadi casually introducing the subject to the younger ones as I was shocked when I started periods at the age of just below 11 and couldn’t understand why my Mum wasn’t taking me to see a Doctor!

  14. A fascinating article .hugely impressed with the missionary zeal exhibited by the girls in the Sankalp project. You have so aptly illustrated how with the right impetus such useful and far reaching social outreach pgmes can be accomplished.
    So proud of our Alma Mater , teachers and girls for all they have done .The throwback to earlier times when teachers took the bold step of educating girls and the responses of some seniors is both interesting and relevant. Gratifying to say the least

  15. Enjoyed reading this beautifully written article about the project ‘Sankalp’. So proud of our SKVA students and our present principal Mrs Nishi Mishra.
    Reading the article also brought back so many fond memories for me.
    Congratulations Amita Di.

  16. Excellent reporting of this much needed product for the underprivileged women. Kudos to your alma mater for undertaking this project. I actually googled for more info on Muruganantham and his equipment… all very interesting.Had not seen the movie Padman.

  17. Why should girls whisper indeed! An article weaving not only the unsung heroes but also memories of inspirational teachers. Thank you for highlighting this simple machine and it’s livelihood impact

  18. Amazing work by some amazing students! Congratulations to Mrs. Mishra and the teachers for inspiring and guiding the SANKALP project at SKV and to Amita for bringing to light the dedication of these students.

  19. To motivate, young girls to this extent in community service , says a lot about the c Head of the institution. Congratulations to the students , Principal and Amita for bringing it live for all of us .
    Thank and keep sharing.

  20. Hi Amita
    So well written about this sensitive issue in Indian culture. It is commendable of our young school students to come ahead and be part of SANKALP
    Once again congratulations and I m proud of you !

  21. Very inspiring and commendable work done the students!
    And well highlighted in this excellent piece, Amita.

  22. Wonderful Article, Amitaji. So happy that SANKALP is doing such commendable work at the grassroots level. Change can truly be brought about if implemented at the ground level. It seems like a movement being brought about by the students within a community. My sincere appreciation for the women and girls involved in this – more power to them. You have captured the essence of their efforts so poignantly through your writing. Articles like these help create awareness for such efforts.

  23. A wonderful initiative by the girls of SKV.The girls have transformed the lives of the women in the village and 8n the bargain must have become better human beings kind and empathetic.
    Thanks Amitaji for letting us know about the initiative.These young girls growing up with a heightened sense of social responsibility are the future of our country.

  24. Extremely well written,and commendable work by these young girls,hats off .So proud to know you Amita.

  25. Very well written and handled sensitive issue Of females of Indian villages.Girls of SKV showing full determination to work for it.
    A very good social work indeed!
    Very nicely presented by Amita.

  26. Excellent article Amita. Sankalp is such a ‘necessity’! Kudos to Nishi Mishra and the girls involved in the project. Wish other institutions and schools would learn from this and emulate their example. We have so many villages that would benefit. Your article is beautifully penned and dare I say almost a eulogy to your alma mater! Well done!

  27. SKV is one of the country’s finest and has a great tradition with the country’s finest teachers and students. This project is a testament to the present students and their intrepid Principal. Well done girls! You are born to soar! Wishing you all the Courage and Will to continue to serve the underprivileged throughout your lives. Very proud to be one of the very early SKVites and to be a close friend of Amita Sarwal who has done so much in so many ways to keep the flame of our alma mater burning and for uniting us all as one big Family.

  28. Congratulations Amita yet another article so well written
    For the underprivileged of the society.You have brought out such a sensitive topic amongst these ladies in such a natural way.wonderful initiative by the girls of SKV & Kudos to Mrs Nishi Mushra & her team for doing such an excellent job .Wish you all the best in your endeavors.

  29. You did it again Amita! Very well written article on a regular, monthly ‘fact of life‘ for half the population!
    It is interesting that this ‘fact of life‘ is kept in ‘Whisper’ mode in MANY developing countries besides India!
    Such a project taken up in other schools of India will be a character-building enterprise where you catch the tender hearts of adolescents at an impressionable age.
    Making this a small scale industry factory is a great idea! It can become global soon as this involves fifty percent of our industrious humans!
    A heart felt thanks to the young girls of SKV Gwalior! With wise leadership-
    YOU DID IT!!!

  30. Commendable work by the young girls of SKV . The work of the organisation is very well described in the article. It’s a great initiative to deal with the very sensitive issue of rural women.
    All the best SKV !!

  31. A sensitive issue which has been well articulated by Amita Sarwal.
    Project Sankalp is a noble gesture taken up by Mrs Nishi Misra and her team of students of the prestigious Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya kudos to them! I hope it will inspire others organisations to come to the aid of the underprivileged women.

  32. To help/empower deprived & ignorant ones is perhaps ultimate human service & this initiative by SKV falls in that category. So congratulations to the students & Nishi Mishra of SKV who inspired them.
    Amita Sarwal has too done a great service by writing & highlighting the initiative as well as problem itself.
    God bless all.

  33. Superb example of great leadership Nishi ji!
    Most touched n proud to know the hard work n dedication of the principle Ms. Nishi mishra n the students of Skv , my alma mater !!
    Amita your journalistic skills managed to convey the wonderful work done by the school to all of us. A big thanks to you!
    With all my love n best wishes

  34. It was nostalgic as it took me back to my growing up years. It also brought back the little fear, discomfort, and embarrassing moments of those times. I am proud of being an SKVian and how this sensitive matter is being tackled by the present girls. It is social service of the best order, helping rural women to live hygenic private lives. Kudos to them all!!!

  35. Amita, I finally saw and read about Sankalp. I’m speechless with admiration for the wonderful work done. Hats off to the amazing work, continued with the same passion over the years. How many thousands of women have been able to move ahead in their minds and attitudes.
    The video is so well made – it takes guts to speak to the villagers on such a topic….
    I cannot say enough. Thank you for bringing this out…

  36. Amita, first of all I must commend you for writing on a hush hush subject with such ease.
    Of course times have changed and this is now accepted as a natural periodic occurance. Today people are more open to talk and discuss on this subject.
    The SKV girls, besides bringing awareness, have added so much convenience, confidence and comfort for the rural women in those difficult days. The efforts are really praiseworthy.
    I am sure SKV – Sankalp already so well received will achieve higher pinnacles of success in the coming years.
    Kudos for providing wings to the Project with your article.

  37. Amazing work by amazing people …and so well chronicled by a caring alumnus of the institution where it all happened. It is truly inspirational .. this process of making the girls aware of the natural functions of their bodies…while retaining dignity and eschewing any feelings of guilt or shame. I would be truly happy if I can see men involved in this process…accepting this process and preserving the health and dignity of their women


  38. Amita: Outstanding project by your school. As a journalist, you are capable of bringing awareness in villages. Congratulations to Nishi Misra & her team. 👍👍

  39. Amazing work by SKV .Congratulations and
    keep up the good work.Rural women need
    To be able to live a life of dignity and self respect

  40. Very well written Amita! It’s still a taboo subject in India, and you have handled it well. May all the rural women in India ” STAND UP AND WALK TALL” ! Three cheers to Sankalp!

  41. So well articulated Amrita Didi. The way you have expounded it by connecting with the context of Sushma didi, Sudha Taiji and how Leela bai ji taught all of you then to make handmade hygienic pads with gauze and cotton wool, is indeed commendable. Your love for our Alma mater is explicitly noticeable in every word, and the moments you cherish through this article. I am overwhelmed by nostalgia on reading it

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