WSUP Bangladesh champions women-led menstrual hygiene change

Countries: Bangladesh Bangladesh-local

By Aklima Khatun

What began as a personal mission to empower schoolgirls in her community with proper hygiene has blossomed into a flourishing career for Shellyna Nazneen, a 50-year-old widow and resident of Sirajganj, Bangladesh.

Following the loss of her husband, Shellyna, with no prior experience, joined a local NGO as a hygiene promoter under the Sanitation Hygiene Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) program. There, her dedication, empathy, and self-motivation were recognized. Despite initial resistance from her surroundings, Shellyna, with the project’s support, embarked on a new path – entrepreneurship – establishing a business focused on producing low-cost, eco-friendly, and biodegradable sanitary napkins.

In 2013, supported by SHEWA-B and the Sirajganj slum development officer, Shellyna set up a small shop equipped with a cotton-refining machine. Initially catering to adolescent girls and their relatives, the business thrived. Today, Shellyna collaborates with various government offices, conducting training sessions on low-cost sanitary napkin production and distribution for adolescent girls, women, schools, maternity centres, and community hospitals. Notably, her production unit employs 10 adolescent girls, and her son, who is overcoming physical challenges, serves as an accounting and marketing official – a testament to Shellyna’s unwavering commitment to inclusivity and empowerment.

WSUP Bangladesh, a key player in promoting improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices, played a crucial role in Shellyna’s journey. Recognizing her potential, WSUP connected her with relevant organizations, significantly amplifying her reach and impact. This exemplifies WSUP’s dedication to supporting the Bangladesh MHM Platform and its mission of menstrual health awareness.

Since its inception in 2007, WSUP Bangladesh has directly reached over 1.28 million people with hygiene education. By supporting women entrepreneurs like Shellyna, WSUP creates a ripple effect, fostering a more informed and empowered society where women can manage their menstrual hygiene with dignity and contribute to a thriving sanitation economy.

Shellyna Nazneen’s story is a powerful example of how empowering women entrepreneurs can improve menstrual hygiene management, job creation, and public health outcomes.