HRH The Countess of Wessex sees how Queen's Young Leaders are transforming women's health care in India
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HRH The Countess of Wessex sees how Queen's Young Leaders are transforming women's health care in India

On day three of her tour of India to see the work of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex saw how two Queen’s Young Leaders are transforming women’s health across the country.

In India, it is estimated that over 23 million girls each year drop out of school early due to lack of menstrual hygiene facilities and the stigma surrounding menstruation. Today, The Countess met with Queen’s Young Leader Deane De Menezes, who is tackling this major threat to gender inequality in disadvantaged communities in Mumbai. Through her organisation, Red is the New Green, Deane is working to end the embarrassment faced by women and girls about their periods, to improve access to sanitary products, and provide eco-friendly disposal solutions.

On a visit to Sir Elly Kadoorie School, one of 30 locations where Deane is working, The Countess met girls and their mothers who have benefited from awareness raising sessions that Deane’s organisation provides and was shown the low-cost sanitary towel vending machines and incinerators which have helped to bring about a reduction in female absenteeism. The Countess was presented with a period pouch which are given to girls at her training sessions to provide them with somewhere clean and safe to keep their pads.

Deane received her Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty The Queen in 2018 for her work which has so far reached over 100,000 women and girls in her community. The Awards programme was established in 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief, The Royal Commonwealth Society and the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Continuing Education to champion and connect 60 remarkable young people from across the Commonwealth each year for four years.

The Countess later met with Deane's fellow Queen's Young Leader, Aditya Kulkarni, who is working to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in India. 

On a walk to his clinic through one of the largest slums in India, Aditya told The Countess about his project. Globally, around 800 women die every day of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 20 per cent of these cases are in India. Aditya co-created “CareMother”, a mobile and online platform which enables health workers to provide pregnant women who would otherwise not have been reached with antenatal check-ups at their homes. Within the last two years, Aditya and his team have provided affordable care to more than 30,000 pregnant women in over 800 villages in India, Bangladesh and Kenya.

At the Padmanagar Apnalaya Health Centre, The Countess spoke with health workers who use CareMother daily to monitor the health of expectant mothers, as well as women who have used the app to monitor their pregnancy.