Asian Mums Network supports the menstruation mindfulness, women empowerment
and the belief that education changes lives. Therefore, today we decided to interview
Manjit K, an inspiring and encouraging woman who founded Binti International, a
foundation that aims to create a world where all women have menstrual dignity.
Good afternoon Manjit. It is a pleasure for us to interview inspiring and entrepreneur women like you. Can you tell us a bit about what triggered you to start Binti International and the story behind it?
I used to work for the Cherie Blair Foundation as a mentor and whilst working with a
young lady in Nairobi I discovered that women in Africa didn’t have access to
menstrual products but instead used animal skin, cow dung, leaves and other
unhygienic methods to stem the flow. Horrified I started researching and then never
stopped. In hindsight, I know that if I did not have access to menstrual products I
would never have done the things that I have been fortunate enough to do.
How would you define your work ethic or mantra in Binti?
They say that when you start following your passion everything falls into place and it
really is true. I am able to combine all of my skills, learn new ones as I go along, and
work with amazing people. So, its easy to throw everything I have at it. Our mantra is
Every girl deserves dignity period, and with that all decisions are made. If it helps a
girl we will do it. It doesn’t matter if her husband works at a tobacco firm, or she is a
‘he’ now. If she needs access to menstrual products we will try to help. Our work is
primarily focused in the UK, India across Africa and the Midwest in the US.
Since the beginning, what was your main mission with Binti?
Our mission is 3 fold, we provide menstrual products be that through setting up
projects where women produce them to running collection drives. We deliver
menstrual education and training. Raising awareness and smashing shame with
periods is really important. Normalising the conversation so that women are able to
talk about their issues.
How do you approach and help women’s group or communities?
Mostly they come to us these days. Our delivery is always bespoke to their needs be
it a language, type of product, or age group.
What education methods did you develop in order to spread menstruation awareness to the different countries you run the projects in?
While we did our research across India, Nairobi, Swaziland and the UK it became
quite apparent that we all have good, bad, ugly and sad period stories. When we get
a group of girls/women together there is an explosion of sharing. Probably because
we have never discussed our personal stories before. Our bespoke menstrual
education has been designed with this in mind. It covers the biology, emotional,
cultural and spiritual aspects of periods. This means that a person sitting in the class
will learn what a normal period is, where she is in her cycle, which sub conscious
messages she has learnt and explore what a good/bad touch is so that she is in
complete control of her body. We also teach this to boys as well with a focus on their
own puberty too.
Who is the main team that forms Binti and what are their roles?
We have core members of the group who are involved the day to day runnings of the
charity, over 100 volunteers worldwide who assist with various projects and events.
Our International Ambassadors and wonderful Patron work in creating opportunities
for us whilst our Chair, Treasurer, Trustees and advisors help us to meet our charity
regulations. Our families play a huge part in the work that we do by continuously
supporting us, especially when we travel. Our friends have put up with talking about
periods for the past 5 years before we even say hello sometimes so they definitely
require a mention.
On your official page you mention that Binti also focuses on increasing
sustainability and covers aspects of puberty from a biological perspective,
could you please clarify that?
Sustainability is key when running a charity so we are always looking at ways to
create funds for ourselves including launching our own products and technology.
Last year we launched our reusable pads which last 2-3 years and can be washed.
Its a brilliant way of ensuring access for girls and keeping them in school while in the
UK it helps us to be plastic free and assist with keeping the environment green.
Was it difficult to get contributors and investors to support your foundation? How did you approach them?
I have been in Sales and Business Development for most of my career and had “No”
sent to me more in a day then most people have heard in a year. This resilience has
allowed me to always focus on solutions and never spend energy on my problems. I
think, on the whole its a unique ask when we have approached organisations so
most have been happy to support us. Fortunately A lot of the time contributors and
investors contact us.
What was the most remarkable moment you remember up-to-date that you
lived with Binti?
So many to name but, a recent one in Chandigarh was when I delivered a class to
250-300 girls in a school in Hindi, Punjabi and English. A little girl raised her hand
and told me that she will never let them stop her from entering a temple when she,
starts one day because she has heard them say this to her sister.
Are there any future projects or plans you have in mind for Binti International?
This year is our 5th year and already we have an awards ceremony in Mumbai,
plans with a very large corporate for international day, a Womans Car Rally race in
India, a stage show and its only January.
Please do contact us for volunteering opportunities, details about our
Menstrual Training course and of course to donate. A fiver buys an annual
supply of pads for one girl.
LinkedIn Binti International