“My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.“-Maya Angelou.
She has earned many names like “giant slayer”, “David”(of the David and Goliath fame), “the underdog”, etc. but the most significant and fitting one is “the Pad-woman of Amritsar”, Jeevan Jyot Kaur, better known as the superwoman who defeated heavyweights like Majithia and Siddhu in 2022 State Legislative Assembly from East Punjab seat. Nonetheless, she is not just another politician with a political agenda. She has been a social activist and philanthropist since she was younger and, in her heart, still continues to be one today!
“Back in school, I used to be a good orator. I was an all-rounder who loved taking decisions for me and my companions”. A post-graduate in English Honors, Jeevan Jyot completed her LLB from Chaudhary Charan Singh University and subsequently joined her parents’ NGO as a volunteer. S.H.E Society (Shri Hemkunt Educational Society) works in the sphere of education, health, and women empowerment. Currently the chairperson of S.H.E, the activist-turned-politician has the aim of educating girls about menstrual health and removing taboos around the subject. She reminisces about a school visit to a backward village in Punjab where the girls were shocked at being talked about periods and were extremely hesitant to broach the subject. “We surveyed hundreds of schools in the interior of Punjab to study menstruation-related problems among teenage girls. We found the majority of them could not afford to purchase a sanitary pad”, says Jeevan Jyot. This struck her hard and she began campaigning to provide free-of-cost sanitary pads to schools, women’s jails, and old-age homes, earning the sobriquet of ‘Pad-woman’.
In this inspirational quest, she also collaborated with EcoFemme, a Swiss firm that is based in Puducherry that manufactures reusable, organic, and anti-bacterial pads for women. “We produced a two-hour-long menstrual program and launched a project called EcoShe-Revolution. We have covered around 500 schools, and distributed the sanitary-napkin kit free of cost”. Since then, this project has traveled from Punjab to Haryana to Bihar and a presentation was also made in the House of Common in London.
The S.H.E Society is a non-profit, non-political, voluntary organization founded in 1995-96 under the dynamic leadership of Mrs. Jeevan Jyot Kaur. It works for the upliftment of poor and disadvantaged sections of society through developmental projects in order to create a self-reliant community. Their major strife is for women’s empowerment and creating a drug-free society. The primary aim of this ‘Sanstha’ is to make the youth healthy, both physically and mentally, to make them socially productive, and educate them to preserve the culture and secular traditions of India. The Chairperson, Jeevan Jyot Kaur, wants to continue working for these underprivileged people because she strongly believes that through proper guidance, in terms of counseling and vocational training, they can be rehabilitated. Although it is a mammoth task, she believes in her cause and is hell-bent on providing them with appropriate opportunities.
Talking more about ‘EcoShe-Revolution’- it is an all-woman initiative – of the women, by the women, and for the women. This project promotes and revitalizes menstrual practices that are healthy, affordable, and ecological. In an interview, Jeevan Jyot said that this project was born when she saw slum women using unhygienic and dangerous methods for their menstrual cycle. She said, “The ones which are available in the market are made of plastic hygienically dangerous in the long run. I also have a team of doctors with me vouching for the same. Moreover, there is no commercial motive behind this step, it is just to ensure that women are & adopting correct methods.”
Kaur’s Twitter bio calls her ‘Pad-woman of Punjab’. Rightly so because she is, undisputedly, the first woman of Punjab to have addressed this issue with so much vigor. Just like her philanthropic endeavors, her political journey has also been inspiring as she stood against stalwarts like Navjot Singh Sidhu and Vikramjeet Singh Majithia and defeated them. She maintains that her party’s main agenda is to focus on neglected issues that are affecting the masses like poor civic infrastructure in slums and lack of adequate healthcare and sanitation. After her debut as an MLA, she vows to continue her activism. “I would work to make our women financially independent by boosting skill development programs and self-help groups in Punjab.” From a never-ending web of drugs to unemployment and mass exodus of youth to countries like Canada and the UK, Kaur has a daunting, uphill climb ahead of her. Nevertheless, she says, “there are no smooth roads in life; all you need is the determination to chart your own way forward”.
Jeevan Jyot Kaur’s unwavering commitment and pioneering initiatives have inspired a wave of change across Punjab. She has fostered a cultural shift, sparked open dialogue and broken down the walls of silence about so to say “women’s issues”. Her efforts have led to greater awareness and acceptance, enabling women and girls to embrace their natural bodily functions without shame or guilt.