Braving obstacles since 2014, Srinagar-based Irfana Zargar’s fight for sanitary hygiene in Kashmir

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A local woman in Kashmir’s Srinagar district has been for years supporting the unprivileged — and those in immense need at public places — irrespective of backgrounds by donating and delivering sanitary pads and supportive items.

Irfana Zargar, a consolidated-based employee with Srinagar municipal corporation, took an initiative to give away the sanitary items to girls in need back in 2014 but with time it evoked great response that earned her praise from all the sections of the society.

Irfana Zargar said that she started this initiative after the death of her father back in 2014 and she is doing it in the name of her father. “I believe this will elevate my father’s status in the hereafter,” according to news agency KNO.

“When I was about to return home, people were already calling me and sending messages of appreciation. The quickness with which the news spread was unexpected,” she said.

Zargar informed that her plan is now to cover all the public washrooms in Srinagar, and she is unlikely to rest until she is done. “I am doing this for women who will need such things in an emergency, especially women coming from the villages,” she stated.

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She added that she is donating all the sanitary items out of her salary and there is no support from anyone. “I started to give away all the sanitary items as part of charity back in 2014 and I would put several packets at two different public washrooms in Srinagar initially where women in need would use as per the requirement only to earn rewards for my deceased feather who left us in 2013.”

She said that it was the love and affection of her parents which encouraged her for this noble cause. “There is no denial in saying that parents go beyond the limits for their children to help them in every manner. Similarly, my parents raised me with all the love and affection that encouraged me to do something for God’s sake and I believe it will earn rewards for my parents,” she said.

To support her family and assist her own education, she started working in the public grievance cell of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. It was there that she grew determined to start an initiative for the ladies and bring awareness in society at very little cost.

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“There is this stigma which must be tackled and for that it is necessary to create the awareness on a larger scale,” expressed Zargar. She also plans to launch a free cab service for ladies which will serve them whenever they need transport.

Zargar mentioned that her efforts didn’t involve any intention to get help or funding from the government or NGOs.

Zargar fears that people will accuse her of being “paid” or someone who takes money from the government. “This is very common here,” she said, but stressed that she only wanted women to support her.

Such support could come in the form of the donation of a single sanitary napkin at a time. “We usually spend a lot of money for various reasons. It will be best if women in Kashmir spend a bit on this initiative,” she said, adding that “it is completely up to them how they will want to help.”

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Zargar has received many appreciative messages from women. Some men have accused her of making a thing that should be “hidden” from a public life of a woman. “I want to tell those men that if, suppose, their wives or daughters get stains on their clothes and if they are in sudden trouble, will they be happy about it?”

When a girl or women gets periods, their own parents forbid them to enter into the kitchen or to serve food, Zargar stressed. “This is not something we should be ashamed of, it is natural.”

Even amidst the Covid19 lockdown restrictions, Irfana continued her work to reach out to the needy.

She said that when everything was inaccessible she shared posts on social media platforms that women without sanitary items can reach out to her and the help will be provided without disclosure of their identity.

“Even I personally went to many places to deliver those items at the door steps of the needy and I was very successful in doing that also the post evoked great response from people,” she said.

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