An Interview with Enactus: LaunchPad India

LaunchPad is an Enactus-led project running on campus, fundraising to improve sanitary hygiene in India, and raising awareness for the cultural issues and stigmas that exist around menstruation. This week, we had a chat with Holly and Ben, the second year English students who are leading the project, so they could tell us a bit about LaunchPad and why menstrual issues need addressing. 

Can you tell us a bit about Enactus? What projects is it leading right now?

H: Enactus works across loads of unis all over the world, and it basically runs social enterprise projects. It encourages student entrepreneurial action to make a change at University. It’s been running on this campus for about two years, and we’ve recently broken away from the one at main campus so Falmouth students can get involved as well.

Alongside LaunchPad, Enactus also runs the BEE project, which is combatting elephant crop raiding. They’re raising funds to build fences around farms that set off bee traps to scare away elephants, which means that farmland doesn’t get destroyed and that farmers aren’t killing elephants. They’re also trying to set up one called NEETS, which is for young people who aren’t in education or employment, but that one is still in the development stages.

What is LaunchPad?

H: We’re raising money to buy equipment for a machine that will produce sanitary napkins, and the aim is to give it to a community in India. We’d like it to set up a female led business, so women can produce their own napkins, and this will hopefully bring money and employment to the community.

B: We don’t want it to be one of those projects that’s very westernised and appropriative, where we go in to “save” the community.

H: We really want it to be community led, so the machine will empower the local community.

How did you get involved?

H: I think I just saw a flyer at the Freshers’ Fayre, and then I dragged Ben along to a meeting!

B: We went in thinking it was a project on domestic violence, which was what it was originally going to be, but then Hope, who founded the project, introduced us to her dissertation topic which was about studying menstruation in India.

What made you interested in a project like Launchpad?

H: I was first drawn to it because I’m interested in gender equality.

B: I don’t think I realised how big an issue it actually is.

H: 20% of girls in India will drop out of education when they hit puberty because they can’t get access to sanitary hygiene. But there are a lot of dimensions to the issue that I didn’t realise existed, in terms of both medical and cultural issues.

Why do you think that menstrual issues and sanitary hygiene is something so often overlooked or not spoken about?

H: It really is such a taboo thing. I’ve done a couple of internship interviews, and it’s almost always with a middle aged man and they always shut down when I talk about the project. I think people find it quite inaccessible to talk about. People don’t talk about menstrual issues, and so it kind of self perpetuates, but when we actually get people talking, most people tend to really open up.

What is LaunchPad doing to help?

H: At the moment, we’re focusing on fundraising.

B: We’ve run charity gig at Hillbilly’s in Falmouth, where we featured a lot of music students, and we had art students designing the posters, so since opening up Enactus to Falmouth students, we get to really incorporate the creative side of things.

H: We wanted to utilise the full skill set of this campus, especially because it’s so creative. I think some people think that Enactus is just a business society, so we really wanted to make it creative, and show off the different skills of different students.

B: We want to make sure that people involved with the project can get what they want from it, and use their own skills. For example, we’ve got some students who are interested in journalism, and who just want to write about LaunchPad, rather than be actively involved in the fundraising.

While LaunchPad is working to raise awareness for menstrual issues in India, do you think you can relate this to similar issues that are happening here in the UK?

H: I was reading something the other day about young girls from low income families who are skipping school because they can’t afford tampons and sanitary napkins – so it’s a really similar thing to what’s happening in India that is happening here in the UK.

B: There’s definitely a problem with stigma. We generally have a pretty even split of males to females in the team, but when we had a raffle stall up last year, we definitely attracted more of a female crowd.

H: There needs to be a more open discussion about menstruation. It’s sad that young people might think that they can’t speak to a teacher or an authority figure about not having access to sanitary products, which is an issue that could be so easily resolved. Menstruation is just something people think that they can’t talk about.

Can you tell us a bit about your proudest achievements working as a part of Launchpad?

B: I’d say the charity gig. We raised £160 just from donations, so that was really good.

H: It was definitely nice to see everything and everyone coming together.

B: It really got the LaunchPad name out there, especially seeing as we’re quite an unknown project.

H: Also it was quite a fun night!

B: I would also say that I’m proud of actually getting the project going. We only really started thinking about it in January of last year, but now we actually have a project up and a lot of people involved – so that’s great.

How can people get involved in Launchpad?

Send us a message through the LaunchPad Facebook page. Also, LaunchPad has positions open to be filled for the 2017/18 academic year. For more information, send us a message on Facebook!

This profile was organised with the help of our Women’s Student Officer, Mackinlay