In a country where menstruation is still considered a taboo topic, 18-year-old Sohan Pappu from Vijaywada wants to work towards overcoming it. The teen, who is a student at Manipal Academy of Higher Education, embarked on his journey of helping people when he was in Class 9.
"We started conducting campaigns for construction workers by distributing water packets, butter milk etc to them," said Pappu, who is the vice-chairman of the NGO Our Youth Social Community. Wanting to do something different, Pappu began conducting awareness campaigns on menstrual hygiene in schools.
"Menstruation is still a taboo in India and I wanted to break the taboo and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene, " Pappu told The Logical Indian.
'Do Not Believe In Tags Like Organic And Biodegradable'
Soon, Pappu was conducting such campaigns in other parts of the state and also distributing sanitary napkins available in the market. However, he soon realized that these pads were detrimental to the health of the individual as they contain harmful chemicals like pesticides, chemicals, bleaching powder, wood pulp, polymers and other petroleum products. He believes that the term "biodegradable" is being used loosely by many companies manufacturing these napkins.
"Though they claim to be organic and biodegradable they are neither as their products contain plastic, which certainly is not biodegradable," Pappu told The Logical Indian.
The bleaching agents in the sanitary napkins are used to improve the blood absorbing capacity. However, the bleach contains dioxin is a carcinogen, which means it promotes the formation of cancer-causing cells in one's body. As a result, it can cause cervical cancer.
A report says that every year around 4,000 women in the USA are diagnosed with cervical cancer and even though there is a vaccination available for it, not many know about it. He got to work and created an organic product using bamboo fiber, banana fibre pulp, cornstarch plastic (which is made from corn) .
Elaborating on it In, Pappu told The Logical Indian, " We used bamboo fibers for our top sheet. When it comes to the middle layer other companies use wood pulp or cotton and polymers. We have created our middle layer using banana pulp fibre instead. The bottom player is usually made using plastics in other pads. But we have used cornstarch plastic for our bottom layer."
However, manufacturing a pad is not a cheap process. Since materials like bamboo fiber and banana pulp are not easily available, it is sourced from north India. The production cost for each pad is around ₹ 16-18. Around 10 people are employed in the manufacturing process.
The Larger Problem
Stressing on the importance of menstrual hygiene, Pappu added that 80 per cent of women in India do not use sanitary napkins. "Instead they use old cloth, leaves and other items. These are unhygienic," added Pappu while speaking with The Logical Indian
In the absence of other alternatives, many girls, especially in rural areas, drop out of school. As a result, they get stuck in the cycle of poverty. Pappu pointed out that due to lack of awareness, many women who use cloth, end up wearing them for around 7-8 hours at a stretch and most often wash them only once a week.
To solve this problem, Pappu has decided to distribute his pads for free to the poor. Through Project Suraksha, he plans to distribute 3.5 lakh pads per month all over India.
Also Read: This 22-Year-Old Is Changing How Her Community Talks About Menstruation