For many years, women have always tried to find a way to tackle their menstrual flow. In the 1990s, sanitary napkins became popular to use during a period. But, the problem was that there was no proper way to dispose of them other than to throw them in the dustbin. Only a small portion of this is incinerated. Many times they would just pile up at the garbage bins or landfills. To reduce the impact on the environment, this group has come up with the idea of sustainable menstruation.
Sustainable Menstruation India is an online Facebook community which enlightens women on how to adopt eco-friendly methods during their menstrual cycle like reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups and is redefining the concept of feminine hygiene. Currently, it has over 10,000 members and more women members are joining on a daily basis.
The concept of sustainable menstruation is not new. In olden days, women used cloth pads. Though reusable and durable, the drawback with this method was the risk of infections if the cleaning and storage were unhygienic. The founders of Sustainable Menstruation found out more about menstrual cups and other efficient methods to manage their period in other countries.
Why Sustainable Menstruation?
Reusable menstruation management products, i.e., menstrual cups and cloth pads are made of high-quality silicone/TPE and cotton material respectively. Thus, no plastic is going into landfill each month. One pad equals four plastic bags, due to the amount of plastic and chemicals that go into the making of a sanitary pad. Assuming each woman uses 12 sanitary napkins per month; millions of Indian women add millions of sanitary waste to the landfills. One sanitary pad takes about 500-600 years to decompose. Thus, this is a big problem for the environment.
What are the alternatives and can they be used without medical supervision?
There are many options available such as Menstrual cups, cloth pads, sea sponge, reusable cotton tampons. In India, cloth pads and menstrual cups are widely known and accepted. Cloth pads can be used without the need for a medical supervision, provided the same are washed properly and sun dried. Menstrual cups too can be utilised based on cervix length. But, there is a learning curve for this. Gynaecologists share their view on the usage of cups and cloth pads based on their perception.
Who are the target group?
I feel that cups and cloth pads both are long term investments. A good quality menstrual cup can last 7-10 years, and cloth pads can last 2-4 years if managed carefully. Hence, for menstrual cups target audience are the urban women, as in our country only 6-8% women use sanitary pads. Rest of them still use rags and other unhygienic methods. Thus, its quite a task to convince them to switch to use menstrual cups. But yes we can always make them understand use and benefits of cloth pads. In fact, making cloth pads is easy too if one knows basics of sewing. Thus, we can encourage rural women to make and use cloth pads. There are Indian brands who donate cloth pads through their ‘pad for pad’ program where we buy cloth pads paying little extra, and they give cloth pads to women who can’t afford them.
What have been the achievements so far?
I have been using cup and cloth pads for the past two years, and I have been able to switch my colleagues, friends and family members to RUMPs (Reusable Menstruation products). That includes my niece who is in the early 20s and a virgin. The reason I am talking about virginity here is that just like menstrual process, talking about sex and virginity are taboo in our country. How can we hope to build an informed generation of people if we are not ready to talk about it?
How do you wish to reach the women who don’t have access to Smartphones or social networking sites?
Many volunteers organise workshops and reach as many women as possible to spread the word about sustainable menstruation and usage of RUMPs. Those who are involved in this cause full-time participate in various flee markets to reach women across the country.
What are your plans for the future?
We (my friend and I) continue to organise workshops to spread the word as much as we can.
(As Told by Shreya Bagthariya, Admin, SMI)
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