Bleeding ‘Green’: Why I Ditched Typical Sanitary Pads

Period Paath logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC, to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management among menstruating persons in India. Join the conversation to take action and demand change! The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

An irregular period cycle, constant Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) and irritability, etc. due to use of Disposable Sanitary Napkins (DSNs) are some of the common reasons why many menstruators have switched to sustainable menstrual hygiene products like menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads, inter-labia pads and period underwears.

However, I have always had a decent, mildly painful, only five-day long menstrual cycle and had no physical reason to make a switch to sustainable products. The chemicals present in the DSNs are undoubtedly harmful, but honestly, it never gave me rashes, irritation or any discomfort.

The only thing that motivated me to switch was the willingness to reduce the sanitary waste I could generate in my future cycles if I continued to use DSNs.

Do We Wish To Reduce Sanitary Waste Or Generate Biodegradable Waste? 

Waste generation is indispensable and cannot be stopped altogether, but we can always aim towards waste reduction. Sustainable period products help in reducing the average sanitary waste a menstruator can generate in their lifetime. Studies have shown that one DSN is equal to four polythene bags.

A menstruator easily disposes of a pack or more of such DSNs which is an enormous amount of sanitary waste. Moreover, it is reported that this waste does not decompose or break down for 500–800 years unless burnt. Hence, all the pads we disposed of are still on the Earth and will remain so for the coming years. But as individuals, we can always aim to reduce the waste arising out of future cycles by way of switching to sustainable products.

Are Biodegradable Pads A Sustainable Option?

A lot of companies and start-ups have come up with biodegradable sanitary pads that claim to be better than the disposable ones, which consist of non-biodegradable contents. But the question is whether these are compostable or not. If not, then the purpose of reducing waste is far-fetched.

If the waste we generate by using biodegradable pads is not able to degrade in soil within 4–6 months, its claims are false, and it is not a sustainable product. The youth that admires the sustainable living as shown on social media platforms also needs to learn about the levels of sustainability that particular product supports and whether what they chose to use is actually eco-friendly.

Is Reusing Unhygienic?

It has been a common concern and belief that reusing a sanitary product in unhygienic. Many menstruators cringe at the idea of washing a used cloth pad and then reusing the same for the next cycle or next day in the same cycle. They are also averse to the idea of washing a menstrual cup and then reinserting it inside their vaginas.

Opposite to this popular view, reusing is safe and hygienic till the time one takes care of the product properly and knows the right ways of washing them.

To sterilize the product, either by boiling it (in case of a menstrual cup) or drying it in the sun (in case of cloth pad), is the key to a healthy hygienic, sustainable period.

Sustainable menstruation not only helps us reduce waste on earth but also improves our relationship with our periods.

After I switched to sustainable menstrual health products, I developed a better understanding of my periods in terms of how much I bleed, what color is my blood on different days, is blood mixed with some other vaginal discharge etc. It also improved my insight into the physiological changes in my body while I’m on my periods.

What I liked the most about my experiment with them is the fact that I understood that most of my irritable and annoying behavior was a consequence of the discomfort from prolonged use of a plastic pad/DSN. It definitely can be a product of hormonal changes in the body, but I feel it is also affected by the comfort and calm of the body due to something applied externally. Thus, Sustainable Period is an advantage not only for the environment but for the human body also.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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