Westwood High School senior Devika Kumar traveled to a remote village in India this summer to help women deal with a taboo subject: menstrual health and hygiene.
The 17-year-old had visited the village many times before. But it wasn't until she learned that it is against the culture there for women or anyone to talk about menstrual cycles that she decided to take action.
"Many of them think it’s a disease, which is crazy. Many of them don't know it’s a normal biological process. They use clothes and in extreme cases they use like newspapers, dried leaves, ashes sometimes," said Kumar.
Kumar was shocked and appalled. Girls could not ask their mothers about their cycles. No one talked about it.
It was also hard for women to buy pads. There was no market in the village of 1,000 people. The nearest market was 45 minutes away and women did not have ways to get there.
So Kumar reached out to a company that manufactures machines that make sanitary napkins. She raised $4,600 to buy one of the machines and traveled back to that remote Indian village to help install it.
For five days in June, she learned how to use the machine to make cost effective sanitary napkins. The machine allowed each pad to cost two cents to make.
Kumar's mother and sister also helped with group discussions, educating about a woman's natural biological body process.
Kumar started the MAHI Project (Menstrual Awareness and Hygiene in India) as a Girl Scouts project to earn her Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.
Now, Kumar and her sister are in the process of starting their own non-profit group so they can continue this global mission for women in developing countries.