When 14-year-old Anurag Chauhan stepped up to volunteer for various social causes, little did he know that the desire to change the world would run deep. The more he volunteered, the more he learnt about the harsh realities of the society we live inparticularly menstruation and the taboo surrounding a rather natural biological phenomenon. Fortunately, Chauhan was sensitised on the subject at a young age. As an immature and gullible boy watching advertisements for sanitary napkins on TV, I believed that they were actually meant to soak up ink. And considering most of us used fountain/ink pens for school, we always had ink at home. I would secretly go into her cupboard and take a few pads to see if the ink absorbed like it did in the ads. Thats when my mum sat me down and explained that people were shy to openly discuss periods, and pads werent meant to absorb ink.Soon, Chauhan began purchasing sanitary napkins for his mother, but was often met with bewildered expressions. In fact, one time I had asked the shopkeeper for Ultra napkins but he ended up handing me a pack of Ultra cigarettes. It were incidents like these that opened his eyes to the fact that menstruation was considered a taboo almost everywhere. It made me realise that it was all about conditioning and upbringing. Even the superstitions surrounding menstruation started to seem silly to me. It made me wonder how they came about in the first place. Women werent allowed in the kitchen when they were on their period because menstruation tends to physically exhaust a woman. That makes sense, but not the contortion and convolution of it. Of course, this only spurred Chauhans curiosity on, and he began to read up and learn more about menstruation, and even went on to earn a degree in social work (Chauhan holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, or BSW from Amity University).Breaking the tabooIt was after the now 26-year-old read a 2011 report stating that over 1.8 lakh women in India die every year due to menstruation-related health complications, that Chauhan decided he needed to bring about a big change. I was completely shocked by the figure. If someone walks up to a group of people and begins shooting them, it becomes world news. But our own women were dying not because of a shootout, but because of poor menstrual hygiene, a lack of awareness, and the fact that its a topic thats not even up for discussion. In 2014, at the age of 20, he registered his NGO, Humans for Humanity, and began his journey to spread awareness about menstruation.Under Humans for Humanity, Chauhan and his team started the project WASHWomen, Sanitation, Hygiene. The idea behind WASH is not just to spread awareness, but to make rural women independent. We go village to village, spending week and months at a time, to educate them and help them break that stigma. But we also teach them how to make sanitary napkins so they dont get sick, or contract any diseases or infections.In fact, Chauhan is proud of their endeavours citing the lockdown as a clear example of how successful the project has been. Sanitary napkins were not part of the essentials list when the lockdown began, and it was a big problem for urban women. For the women we have trainedin urban slums or rural areasit wasnt a concern. They didnt care about what was available in the markets because they were making their own sanitary napkins.It was Chauhans foresight that has been instrumental in giving women that empowerment. I knew that at some point or another, for whatever reason, we would not be able to reach out to them, and vice versa. And we didnt just want to hand out free sanitary napkins because thats something everybodys doing. Teaching them how to take care of themselves and the women in their community just means they can be self-sufficient and independent. This is the ultimate goal of WASH.The way forwardChauhan and his team work with five major points in mindcreating awareness, helping them understand nutrition, providing counselling to break the stigma and teaching them how to use sanitary napkins, reaching out to women who are in the age bracket of menopause, and finally, teaching them how to make sanitary napkins. Of course, their work is not limited to just the women of the village or community. We try to reach out to the men as well because its their sisters, wives, and daughters that need their support. And Ive realised that a little encouragement tends to go a long way.Currently, the group is collaborating with various other organisations to reach a larger number of people to help them spread awareness, and teach them how to make sanitary napkins. The biggest problem in our country is that people have not understood the difference between social work and charity. Charity is noble; its a beautiful thing to be doing charitable work, but that makes people dependant. The purpose of WASH and of Humans for Humanity is to make people independent. Its as the saying goes, Give a man a fish and hell eat for a day, teach a man to fish and hell eat for the rest of his life, he signs off.