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Will remain healthy for 20 years more: Dalai Lama on 80th birthday

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Dharamsala: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said he would remain healthy at least for 20 years more.

“I will remain healthy at least for 20 years more and this is what doctors told me,” he said in his address on his 80th birthday at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to his official palace at McLeodganj near here.

The remark by the 80-year-old pontiff, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, is being seen as a dig at China on not to worry about his successor.8091512041_1fcf541c9b_b

The Nobel laureate has already clarified that he would decide at 90 whether or not he should have a successor and will leave “clear written instructions on the succession”.

The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnation is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

Explaining that he was no superhuman, the Dalai Lama, known for his simplicity and typical jovial style, said: “I am just a simple Buddhist monk. I try to do my best all the time. I am 80 years old now and I have lived my entire life practising the knowledge and I will continue to practise it till I am physically able.”

Thousands of Tibetan exiles, foreigners and Indian dignitaries joined in the birthday celebrations here.

Crowds began to assemble since morning at the temple for the birthday celebrations.

“Special prayer sessions were held for the perfect health and long life of our spiritual leader the Dalai Lama,” Tsering Wangchuk, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), told IANS.

The Dalai Lama, revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’, attended the prayers.

According to a Tibetan tradition, a person’s 80th anniversary bears special significance and is celebrated as a momentous life milestone.

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Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who specially came to attend the celebrations, said: “I hope your life will inspire us to make the world a better place.”

He invited the Nobel Peace laureate to visit his state to bless the people.

Two union ministers, Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is also from Arunachal Pradesh, attended the ceremony.

“The bond shared by Tibet and India is centuries old. This time-tested relationship is based on culture, mutual trust and affection,” Rijiju said.

A representative from Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s office read out the chief minister’s greeting.

Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people, said: “Nobel laureates call Your Holiness as the super laureate. But lesser known are your other contributions. Your Holiness, you are a true democrat. Deeply loved and respected by your people, you have empowered us with democracy and hope.”

The Dalai Lama will be in the US when he turns 80 on July 6, but Sunday was his official birthday, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. He was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007, even in the face of protests by China.

Born Tenzin Gyatson on July 6, 1935, in Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso.

He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959, and based his Tibetan government-in-exile here in Himachal Pradesh. The government is not recognised by any country.

The Dalai Lama has been following a ‘middle-path’ policy that seeks greater autonomy for Tibet rather than complete independence.

However, the Chinese view him as a hostile element bent on splitting Tibet from China.

India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans. (IANS)

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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