Sunday April 22, 2018

Red is the new green- Campaign by a Mumbai woman to educate women about menstrual cycles

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Celebrating Womanhood. Image source Wikipedia
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A step taken by Deane de Menezes for a cleaner environment

  • Saving the environment from the non-degradable waste is also a very big factor
  • Deane de Menezes takes steps to educate women about both
  • Sanitary napkin vendor machines and incinerators in schools soon

50% of girls in India had no knowledge of menstruation before their first period. According to Arundati Muralidharan of WaterAid India, 88% girls and women who menstruate use unsafe materials, and 70% mothers think periods are dirty found a study in 2014.

Lacking awareness in this sector worries Deane de Menezes. Whispers along the line, menstruation has always been a taboo. But what w really miss is the bigger picture- The Environment.

Hygiene tips. Image source Menstrupedia
Hygiene tips. Image source Menstrupedia

Deane de Menezes, a 22 year old research associate in international analytical company CRISIL decided to do something about it. She started Red is the new green campaign where they are installing sanitary napkin dispensers and incinerators in Mumbai’s schools and create awareness of hygienic practices during menstruation. Not only providing sanitary napkins is a worry, but the waste generated by it is a bigger problem. “Every day, rag pickers are exposed to infections and other health hazards when handling feminine hygiene discards,” Menezes explained. “I’ve spoken to garbage men who have told me stories about how they have to segregate the waste and touch pads with their bare hands.”

Sanitary napkin vending machines in Japan. Image source wikimedia commons
Sanitary napkin vending machines in Japan. Image source wikimedia commons

“An average woman eliminates about 150kg of mostly non-biodegradable absorbents every year.” a study by periodofchange, a campaign that seeks safe, hygienic and sustainable menstrual hygiene products. Menezes aims to educate schoolgirls about alternative methods of disposing napkins carefully. With funding from CRISIL, she is working to install vending machines and incinerators in the Auxilium Convent High School Wadala, an eastern suburb of Mumbai. The vending machines and incinerators will also be installed in the school’s branch in Bandra’s Pali Hill, Bandra. “Other than that, we would like to give the girls a small pouch to keep their pads in a clean and safe manner,” she said. The vending machine and incinerator will be up by June 17.

She has already conducted sessions with schoolgirls about the importance of proper hygiene and how can they do their bit to save the environment.

-by Vrushali Mahajan

Vrushali is pursuing her graduation in Journalism and an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle- Vrushali Mahajan 

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  • Pritam Go Green

    This is highly appreciable. Still our old generation thinks menstruation as a taboo. In schools proper knowledge should be given in the primary level itself. One shouldn’t feel shy in knowing all this or in talking about it. It is just a natural healthy phenomenon. Nd most imp thing one should know that ” No female becomes dirty during her menstrual cycle.” This is totally a rubbish thought !!

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes, this type of education should be given at a primary level so that girls know what exactly to be done hen they go through their menstrual cycles.

  • devika todi

    this is a great initiative! the lack of knowledge regarding something so natural is appalling. by educating students about it from a young age, we are infusing awareness and acceptance in the society.

  • Pritam Go Green

    This is highly appreciable. Still our old generation thinks menstruation as a taboo. In schools proper knowledge should be given in the primary level itself. One shouldn’t feel shy in knowing all this or in talking about it. It is just a natural healthy phenomenon. Nd most imp thing one should know that ” No female becomes dirty during her menstrual cycle.” This is totally a rubbish thought !!

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes, this type of education should be given at a primary level so that girls know what exactly to be done hen they go through their menstrual cycles.

  • devika todi

    this is a great initiative! the lack of knowledge regarding something so natural is appalling. by educating students about it from a young age, we are infusing awareness and acceptance in the society.

Next Story

Alternative sanitary pads are here, but accessibility still an issue

The alternatives are slowly treading the path to being accessible to all, and their makers are optimistic about the future

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Accessibility of Sanitary Pads is still an issue. IANS

Awareness about the harm easily-accessible, plastic-based sanitary napkins have been causing to both health and the environment is spreading — but slowly. And helping the cause of better menstrual hygiene, many sanitary pad makers, NGOs and indigenous brands are turning towards natural products to produce sustainable pads.

Organic cotton, banana or jute fibre — and even old clothes — are now among the alternatives on offer to the sanitary pads sold by the MNCs in India.

An alternative for plastic sanitary pads.
Making of better sanitary pads in process.

But why do we need these alternatives?

According to reports, every plastic-based sanitary pad has non-biodegradable content which takes around 500-800 years to decompose. Apart from the threat to the environment, medical experts have also voiced concern over possible pelvic infection due to repeated use of these easily-available plastic pads.

One of the companies providing an alternative is Ahmedabad-based Saathi, which was started in 2015 by graduates from MIT, Harvard and Nirma.

“We realised that there was a need for an alternative, and urban women were looking for different products because they were becoming aware of the consequences of plastic-based pads. The idea of using banana fibre came up and we decided to make sanitary pads based on it,” Saathi co-founder Kristin Kagetsu told IANS. Banana fibre comes from the stem of the banana tree, which, after harvesting, is normally discarded. Saathi buys the stems from collectives of local farmers.

“After being disposed, Saathi’s pads degrade within six months, which is 1,200 times faster than the MNC pads. Since our products are made of natural materials, Saathi pads provide an experience free of rashes and irritation,” Kagetsu added.

It was not an easy ride for the founders of Saathi. Tarun Bothra, another co-founder, said apart from breaking the taboos associated with menstruation, another major challenge for them was to convince banana farmers to sell them the fibre for making pads. “Periods are something that farmers associate with being ‘impure’. So convincing them that it was better to use the banana fibre for the pads than letting it go as a waste was difficult, but we succeeded,” he noted.

Also Read: Taxing Menstruation? GST Denies Sanitary Napkins as Essential Commodity

Another sanitary pad maker, EcoFemme, based in Auroville, is also in the business of making eco-friendly menstrual products — they make cloth-based pads using organic cotton.

“Our target is women aged 18-35. Our products are sold in rural areas through our ‘Pads for Sisters’ programme which offers women the opportunity to buy the pads at a reduced price. The response is good, once there has been a conversation around the benefits,” said Laura O’Connell from EcoFemme.

It’s not just producing the pads; the makers have also taken up the responsibility of creating awareness about menstrual hygiene amongst women, especially in rural areas.

Anshu Gupta’s Not Just Piece of Cloth (NJPC) was among the first to turn clothes into pads. For over a decade now, ‘MyPad’ has been selling its products in rural areas where there is little access to sanitary pads, and even in cities.

“In earlier times, clothes were used. But it was portrayed that clothes were unhygienic. Yes, they are, if not cleaned properly. We at Goonj first thoroughly clean the clothes, make them hygienic, make the pads and the distribute them among women, especially in rural areas,” Meenakshi Gupta from NJPC told IANS.

Non biodegradable sanitary pads.
Plastic sanitary pads do not decompose easily.

She revealed that the idea of making cloth pads came when Goonj, an NGO, found that in rural areas, or even slums of urban cities, women use clothes during menstruation. “It is better to use hygienic clothes than nothing. Women in rural areas lack the knowledge that if used in a hygienic way then clothes are equally good. We don’t aim to make profits, rather make women aware about periods. We have observed quite a change (in attitudes),” she added.

When will such products make it to every household?

Although Saathi has collaborated with local NGOs to reach out to rural women, its co-founder Bothra — also the company’s CTO — believes that the wider use of alternative sanitary pads is going to take some time in India.

“Frankly speaking, in rural areas women don’t even have an idea about sanitary pads; so knowing about the existence of biodegradable sanitary napkins or organic pads or even hygienic clothes is very rare,” Bothra, whose products are available on e-commerce platforms, explained. He further noted that since the MNC-produced pads are easily available at low cost, women don’t show much interest in investing money on the alternatives.

“Price is often a factor for women when it comes to the purchase of biodegradable or organic pads. When one is getting the plastic-based sanitary pads at a lower rate, they don’t like to shell out extra ,” Bothra noted. O’Connell said that though their products have a higher up-front cost, the pads can be used for three to four months — which saves money over time.

A better alternative for plastic sanitary pads.
Sanitary napkins being made from banana fibre.

“Our ‘Pads for Sister’ programme aims to make our pads affordable to women who would otherwise not be able to afford them; and our ‘Pad for Pad’ programme provides our pads to school girls for free,” she added. The alternatives are slowly treading the path to being accessible to all, and their makers are optimistic about the future.

“There is a growing awareness, but there is a lot of work to do to make reusable options more widely known. We believe in informed choices; so we hope that more people in all areas of India, not just rural, will become aware of sustainable options and make a decision based on the fact that reusable products are better for health, the planet and our wallets,” O’Connell commented. IANS