The Myna Mahila Foundation, founded by Suhani Jalota, a graduate of Duke University, was one of the charities who received donations in lieu of wedding gifts from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
According to its website, the Myna Mahila Foundation was founded in 2015, to improve menstrual health in India, making it easier for women living in Mumbai’s low-income areas to gain access to sanitary products and other information.
It also employs women living in those communities to manufacture the sanitary products.
Markle met Jalota at a Glamour Magazine event in 2016 where Jalota was honored as the magazine’s College Women of the Year, though back then she didn’t know what great an impact she had on Markle.
“I didn’t know then that I’d struck a chord with Meghan—and that the selfie we took together would lead to so many life-changing events, including, yes, an upcoming royal wedding,” she said.
Markle then ended up visiting the foundation when she was in India.
“Meghan, dressed simply, had such a positive, genuine vibe that I instantly felt comfortable talking to her. When we reached the slum, the women greeted her with a traditional Indian welcome; they draped her in a sari, bangles, bindi, and a blouse. Someone rushed to find the right-sized shoes for her along with a matching purse,” Jalota wrote in her piece which was featured onGlamour.com.
“Over the next two days, Meghan sat on the floor of our headquarters talking to the community. She ate the food made by local women in the slum without hesitation. She spoke with young girls who miss school days during their cycles. She met with female vegetable vendors to learn about how they started their own businesses and how they deal with their cycle while working,” she continued.
“Normally when outsiders visit us, they ask predictable questions, like: ‘Why don’t you use menstrual cups here, or reusable pads?’ I was surprised to find that Meghan already had in-depth knowledge about the challenges in this low-income community. She made it clear that she wasn’t visiting to just talk about the problems; she was interested in figuring out solutions,” Jalota added.
Jalota and other Myna activists were all invited to the royal wedding. They were the only foreign organization chosen by the couple.
According to the India National Family Health Survey, more than 40 percent of Indian women between the ages of 15 and 24, do not have access to sanitary products during their period as it is considered a “taboo” subject in many low-income areas.
According to UNICEF and other international aid organizations, many women tend to use rags, old clothes, newspaper, hay, leaves, sand and ash, during this time but are often ashamed to wash and dry the rags and clothes properly due to the stigma associated with menstruation in India.
The rags and clothes are then stored in damp, dark places where bacteria is invited, spreading diseases and infections.
The Myna Mahila Foundation has manufactured more than 500,000 pads over the past two years and has helped thousands of women.