Growing up, Umme Sharmin Kabir observed that even in highly educated families, menstruation was a taboo concept and not given much importance. From early on, she knew this was something that she wanted to invest her time in.
After her post-graduation from BRAC University, she started Wreetu, her dream project, with an aim to create a community of health-conscious women and girls in Bangladesh and raise awareness about menstruation, reproduction and puberty.
Wreetu began its journey in 2016 after Sharmin pitched her idea in SPARK Bangladesh. With a small grant and some of her own savings, Sharmin took the big step. Today, they are a nine-member team including on-board gynecologists, medical trainers and volunteers. Through rigorous workshops on puberty, menstruation and reproductive health, the team reaches out to children and parents in different schools and institutions in the capital and other districts. They also have a beautifully illustrated story-based book developed for young girls. “Although young girls are the focus of the book, it is for anyone who intends to get information on puberty, reproductive health and menstruation,” says Sharmin. The book, which is in the process of being out in the market, is verified by gynecologists. Their next venture is Wreetu Reusable Sanitary Napkin. “While conducting workshops, we learned that majority of the girls cannot afford sanitary napkins, and instead, use cloths, rags and even weeds when they have their periods. This is dangerous for a girl's body,” says Sharmin. “We are now working on reusable and biodegradable sanitary napkins. The reusable napkins are free from chemical and bleach, and a pair of them will last almost a year. The biodegradable napkins will be made from banana fibers which are also chemical free and will prevent the users from any rashes and diseases like cervical cancer.”
Recently, Sharmin represented the country in Stockholm along with three other participants at Young Connectors of the Future, initiated by Swedish institute, where she met participants from 6 different countries. She built a consortium with one of the participants from India for an online summit to present feminism through art early next year. “I will venture into every possible way to break the myths surrounding menstruation in the society. I dream of that day when girls will celebrate their first day of period and be proud,” concludes Sharmin.