Hi! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference on UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being. Today’s rockstar is Komal Yadav, founder and president of Project UnMukt, who’s working hard to improve the lives of women and girls in India. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Welcome, Komal, I’m ready to learn! What challenges are you addressing through Project UnMukt?
Komal: Let’s go then, Spiffy! Menstruation is closely connected with the possibility of future motherhood. While my society extolls motherhood, it looks down on menstruation to the extent that the menstruating girls or women are generally considered pariahs. Females are made to feel ashamed and somehow ‘less’. This mistreatment is because of a lack of knowledge and, often, long-held superstitions. I started Project UnMukt to change things for those who go unheard, for those who hesitate to speak, for those who choose not to share, and for those who suppress their emotions and silently carry their ‘burden’. We aim to make their voices heard, build their confidence, and inspire them to be happy with their bodies and minds.
Spiffy: I’m learning a lot already! Can you tell me more about what motivated you to start a project that focuses on girls’ and women’s menstrual health?
Komal: UnMukt literally means unleashed and I want this project to become a way to enlighten all people and help them break free from their metaphorical and literal cages. Having friends with polycystic ovarian syndrome or disease (PCOS/PCOD), I always wanted to establish an extended support system to help make them, and others like them, feel heard and accepted. UnMukt aims to create a safe and inclusive place for everyone by overcoming religious and cultural taboos that are deeply embedded in our culture and cause diffidence and embarrassment regarding the topic of periods.
Spiffy: How would you say you are working to make the world a more equitable place?
Komal: Well, Spiffy, the vision of UnMukt is two-fold. One is to create an inclusive environment to spread menstrual health awareness. The second goal is to make environmentally-friendly menstrual hygiene products easily accessible to those across India who need them the most.
Spiffy: That sounds amazing, Komal! Have you achieved any milestones that are pushing you towards those goals?
Komal: Our project is in the development phase and we are working on making it better each day. So far, we have been successful in educating people about menstrual health using our social media handles on Instagram, Twitter, and Quora. We have conducted a few online sessions and virtual events to educate school children about menstrual health and hygiene, which is a great milestone for us! We are taking one step at a time to make the project achieve greater heights.
Spiffy: I’m always curious about how entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you? Can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up?
Komal: Starting everything on my own from scratch, and being a leader on a topic that is not valued or appreciated in our society, was in itself a very big challenge for me. I had to keep motivating and pushing myself each day to do at least some work to help normalize periods. In addition, I didn’t have a very big team with me, and I was juggling between my academics and other professional goals. I’ve had to plan and work hard to ensure the quality of our content. Now we create less content with more focus, determination, and consciousness to make people understand the importance of girls’ menstrual health. I think that is what is more important, to be consistent and never give up.
Spiffy: It sounds like you’re an eager learner too. What is something unexpected you’ve learned from someone recently?
Komal: Failures are certain. They will teach you something that you won’t learn from success. So I say, embrace failure with the same enthusiasm and love as you do with success—it may open up abundant opportunities that you wouldn't have had a chance to explore otherwise. There's always something better for you to do in life, so never lose hope and be ready to roar like a lion every time!
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Komal: As citizens, each of us has a responsibility towards our planet and we should aim to make it better for ourselves and the generations to come. We must work to achieve sustainable goals and together create a world that is more peaceful, equitable, acceptable, and rich in resources. As more people come to know about our project, we can expand our reach and connect with like-minded people. If you find our project capable of bringing social change, please support and guide us. Any supportive project or collaboration would be appreciated.
Spiffy: I’m putting that call out to the world, Komal! I hope some energetic people will join you in your work. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, it’s been an honor.
Komal Yadav, founder and president of Project UnMukt, graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, India. She serves as Vice President of Mensa India—Dhruv Chapter and has aspirations to join the Indian civil service. Komal believes that people’s real strength lies in loving and accepting their own bodies, which is what UnMukt encourages people to do. With a resolute belief in herself and the UnMukt team, Komal hopes to become the change she wants to see in the world. (Nominated by Millennium Campus Network. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 13, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.