Personal experiences are often the catalyst for taking on greater causes and events. In the case of cricketer/entertainer Dwayne Bravo, tackling the issue of period poverty began when his daughter Dwaynice first got her period. That was three years ago. He was in Australia and her mother called him
in a panic because she was nervous about it.
At the time, Bravo found that humorous, but then began to think about what it would have been like if he had not been in a position to do assist or provide for his daughter. He soon realised there are many women and girls throughout the world who are often without sanitary napkins and products.
Having read and heard of the work of Indian entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham (Padman), Bravo asked his management team to reach out to Muruganantham, inventor of a low-cost sanitary-pad making machine that helped change unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.
“So they made some calls and the calls were taken and the time and place set up. I flew to meet him personally and visit his factories and see the machines for myself and got the opportunity to actually make two pads on my own,” Bravo said to WMN in the face-to-face interview.
Bravo described Muruganantham as very humble and soft-spoken.
“Going to the factory and seeing all his work...In India people really work hard and are very committed to what they do, and I admire that about people in India.
“What stood out for me while I was there in the factory was him showing me the plaque that he received from Bill Gates (the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation and American investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian).
"Muruganantham shared a story with me that the Bill Gates Foundation reached out to him a couple of times and he rejected it. Then Bill Gates personally reached out to him and sent his own private plane to bring him to the US.
“Seeing the plaque on the wall and seeing Mr Gates’ signature, I even recorded it on my phone and that was like, 'Wow. That someone like Bill Gates reached out to this man is definitely something special.”
Bravo realised bringing Muruganantham’s machine to TT would aid many women and girls who might not have the means to afford sanitary napkins and products.
Although there is need for it, Brvao said, "if we don’t have, we make things seem as though we are okay.”
When he thought of even starting a project to provide low-cost sanitary napkins, Bravo was initially “in two minds,” thinking “me being a man and being someone who is out there and flashy and stuff – but at the same time this is not a subject that men feel comfortable getting involved in.”
But Bravo also knew while he did not initially see himself as an “ambassador for pad,” when he looked at the bigger picture, he saw the need for them and the significant difference he would be making in the lives of others.
As he sees his idea becoming a reality, he is happy his management team and those around him persuaded him to bring it to TT.
Bravo has already brought in one machine. Although some of the logistics have to be finalised, his dream of providing low-cost or free sanitary napkins is well on its way. He has also partnered with Helping Her Foundation, a group of young women leading the charge against period poverty.
The material required for making the pads is also here.
“We have to figure out a way, when the first batch of materials is finished, how are we going to get more?
“It is something I want to have continue throughout the country, and, (if all goes) according to plan, bring down another machine and install it in a another village or another school to have it up and running is the main goal,” he said.
In the long term, Bravo wants to see this become a regional initiative. While he has already reached out to some people in Jamaica, TT is priority and he wants to “ensure that it is set it up at home properly, and then I will try to expand. It is like a long-term goal kind of thing."
He is interested with partnering with government on the initiative but has not had any official meetings. He has, however, spoken to Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe because he has a “personal back and forth with her” on various issues and feels comfortable approaching her.
His main wish is to have everyone onboard with this initiative, whether it is the prime minister, health minister, opposition leader or everyday Joe.
While menstruation and pads might be difficult topics for some men, Bravo believes his star power would be enough to generate a conversation among TT’s men.
“They are seeing one of the most successful human beings in TT endorsing it – not to be cocky or anything like that, but the things I have achieved over the years, being a true ambassador of my people throughout the region and worldwide, I am highly respected worldwide, and if I can make a brave move like that...We are not bringing drugs or selling guns, we are doing something to change people’s lives.
“There is no man out there – as much as they don’t want to talk about it – but there is no guy or man who will not support something like this. It is impossible unless they have no feelings, family or kids.”
He wants men to know the importance of period poverty and of providing affordable or even free sanitary napkins. He also hopes to get some of his more influential teammates involved and supporting the project. Once this is done, he believes other people will follow.
Doing charity work, he said, is part of who he is, whether through his Dwayne Bravo Foundation, assisting abandoned children or supporting the TT Blind Cricket Association.
If Bravo had his way, “Everyone would be in a comfortable position, no one should be hungry, no one should be shoeless or anything like that.”
It makes him sad to see the poverty that exists in some countries. “Despite so much money and resources, there is still so much poverty around the world.” He believes if an individual can make a difference in someone’s life, then they should.
“If you are successful, you should try and help others be successful or pave a way to give others opportunities.”