Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor-starrer Pad Man releases this week, and before the film hits the theatres, its promotional campaign is going viral. #PadManChallenge has been among the top trends on social media for quite some time now.
If you are on Twitter or Instagram, you cannot have missed the gazillion pictures of celebrities posing with a sanitary pad as part of the Pad Man challenge.
Not only Bollywood actors like Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Varun Dhawan, Anushka Sharma and Alia Bhatt, the challenge is also being taken by the who’s who from the world of sports, like PV Sindhu and Ravi Shastri. And it seems to have reached the ‘real people’ too, what with Prachi Desai posting a photo of her in-ghoonghat maid holding a sanitary napkin.
But is the Pad Man Challenge effective? The answer is NO.
Akshay Kumar shared some shocking statistics on Twitter: “Only 18% women in India use sanitary pads.”
Earlier, Twinkle Khanna, who is making her foray into production with this film, had told PTI, “Through Pad Man, we want the story to reach every nook and corner of India. The motive is to raise awareness about sanitary hygiene.”
Surely, the majority of the people who need to be made aware about menstrual hygiene aren’t the social-media savvy audience that the Pad Man Challenge is reaching out to?
A report released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India last year said that only 13.08 per cent of the rural population has access to an internet connection.
There is no doubt that menstruation is seen as something of a taboo even in cities. A study by the GlobalHunt Foundation in 2015 revealed that 75 per cent of women living in Indian cities get their sanitary pads wrapped in a brown bag or newspaper because of the shame associated with menstruation.
Do we need to get rid of the stigma associated with menstruation? Absolutely.
But is the problem of urban women getting their packet of sanitary pads wrapped in a bag a bigger problem than rural women using old rags, dried leaves, sand, ash or newspaper due to lack of awareness? Definitely not.
According to a report in BBC, approximately 70 per cent of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Such practices can also impact maternal mortality.
Incidentally, the real-life Pad Man, Arunachalam Muruganantham, who is the brainchild behind the machine used to make low-cost sanitary pads, has dedicated his life to empowering rural women. He was offered fat cheques for the patent rights of his machine, but he has rejected every offer outright.
“My product is targeted towards rural women. I don’t have any plans to make money for myself. All I wish to do is empower rural women in our country. I shall continue working with SHGs (Self-Help Groups) in order to provide low-cost sanitary pads to the women in remote areas and villages,” he told The Indian Express.
The Pad Man Challenge is an excellent marketing gimmick. But it seems to be just that – a gimmick. Is anything being done to reach out to those who need it the most? If only the makers tapped into the same audience as the real Pad Man did…