Author – Vibhuti Aggarwal
Sexual health is still considered a taboo in India and people do not talk about it. We have not paid any attention towards woman’s reproductive health, particularly poor hygiene during menstruation. Usage of sanitary pads or menstrual cups is still an urban elite phenomenon with only 12% women using them. A 2011 survey found out that women not only use dirty clothes and newspaper, but also husk, sand, leaves and many more unhygienic alternatives during periods due to ignorance lack of education or money. The situation is pretty dire in rural areas where families isolate women and force them to live only in one room that time of the month which results in serious health issues.
Fortunately, there are a few men and women who have taken up the task of educating women and providing better alternatives for menstrual hygiene. The most inspiring of them is a real-life story of an underprivileged entrepreneur who created the biggest revolution in terms of woman’s reproductive health and inspired Bollywood to make a feature film named ‘Padman’ on it.
Eco-Friendly Sanitary Pads by Real Life PadMan and PadWoman
Here are a few organizations who innovated some eco-friendly sanitary pads in India that not only will provide better hygiene to women but take care of the environment since they are biodegradable:
Jayaashree Industries – Arunachalam Muruganantham
The Padman movie is about Arunachalam Muruganantham, who is also known as the ‘menstruation man’, who struggled a lot to give women better alternatives and make men understand that menstruation is a natural process of women’s body. Muruganantham is a Jugaad innovator/social entrepreneur based in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, who invented machinery for low-cost sanitary napkins which kickstarted a menstrual hygiene movement in rural areas of India. He created machine that produced sanitary pads in just one rupee per napkin, at just about one-fifth of the cost of the other reputed brands in the market.
Arunachalam Muruganantham’s journey of creating this machine started with a micro-SME unit employing only eight women. In the early days, in spite of all his intention to something good for the women of the society, his own wife and mother deserted him, while his fellow villagers asked him to move out as well. Powered by his fighting spirit, Muruganantham embraced the ups-downs of his endeavor and continued his path rather than leaving it all behind.
Based in Delhi, Goonj is a voluntary organization founded by Anshu Gupta in 1998. Goonj project collects unused clothing from all over India to reprocess the materials to provide clothes, sanitary and many other basic amenities to people living in poorer communities across the country.
Goonj started its “Not Just a Piece of Cloth” (NJPC) campaign, when its Chennai center received too many old clothes as donation after the tsunami in 2004. The campaign focused on making sanitary pads that are biodegradable after looking at the poor hygienic conditions of women during their menstrual cycle in villages and slums. Rather than using this napkin as a product, they use it as an education tool to make women open up on the subject and educate them about the importance of hygiene. Goonj successfully created 2.5 million bio-degradable, reusable, cheap cloth sanitary pads, which are sold at ₹5 for a pack of five.
Srikakulam Chapter of Association of India’s Development
The Association of India’s Development (AID) initiated the Srikakulam Integrated Development Project way back in 2004 for rural women’s groups mainly for income generation. This project located in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh, has now grown to encompass various innovative enterprises such as producing very low-cost sanitary napkins which are made of cloth and cost around INR50 per set. Available in Khadi cotton and flannel, these pads provide hygiene to women without any harm to the environment.
Azadi Pads is a unique enterprise that wants disrupt the sanitary napkin industry with their unique women entrepreneur network model. They have developed environment-friendly, bio-degradable sanitary pads that are 43% cheaper than the average market price. They induct rural women to serve as ‘Azadi Female Entrepreneurs’ who would sell their women’s health and lifestyle products in villages. Started by Dhirendra Pratap Singh, this organization aims to build a network of 13,000 Azadi Female Entrepreneurs, who can directly reach millions of rural girls, as it will be easier for them to approach other women and create awareness about menstrual hygiene.
Heyday was founded Deepanjali Dalmia who launched this sanitary napkin brand made of biodegradable natural fiber. The product is made from made from bamboo and corn fiber, so it is more healthier and safer option as compared to other brands available in the market that are made of plastic and many other harmful chemical substances. These pads are mainly available in Delhi NCR.
Jayshree Pawar, along with the three other women started this initiative around two years ago in Goa. A pack of Sakhi biodegradable pads consist of 8 pads at cost of INR40. They get their raw material from Tamil Nadu and the main component which is used in it is the pinewood paper, silicon paper, butter paper, non- woven paper and cotton which easily gets degraded within 8 days when buried in the mud without creating any harm to the environment. These pads are UV light radiated also which helps in killing germs.
DIY Pads – Make it yourself
Finally, there are many enterprising do-it-yourself innovators who want to make eco-friendly sanitary pads by themselves from cloth that can be used as disposable pads as well. Wikihow provides a complete guide on how can you make sanitary pads on your own and keep yourself healthy without creating much harm to the planet.