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Altertive sanitary pads are here, but accessibility still an issue

New Delhi, April 12: Awareness about the harm easily-accessible, plastic-based sanitary pkins 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 tural products to produce sustaible pads. Organic cotton, ba or jute fibre — and even old clothes — are now among the altertives on offer to the sanitary pads sold by the MNCs in India.
But why do we need these altertives?
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 altertive is Ahmedabad-based Saathi, which was started in 2015 by graduates from MIT, Harvard and Nirma. Ba fibre comes from the stem of the ba 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 tural 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 ba farmers to sell them the fibre for making pads. 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. 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. 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.
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 altertive sanitary pads is going to take some time in India.
The altertives 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 sustaible 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)
 

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Ankur Kalita