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Period Panties To Cloth Pads; Here Are 5 Period Products For You!

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Among India’s 355 million menstruating people, only 58% use sanitary napkins or pads regularly, while the rest resort to mostly using unhygienic traditional alternatives such as old rags, sand, husk, ash, and even gobar (cow dung).

Amidst the pandemic, lower wage-earning families and daily wage workers have prioritised the need for basic yet scarce necessities like foodgrains, and menstruating people from these families have resorted to conventional unhygienic menstrual practices and products.

Among the middle-classes, and the upper middle-classes, a sanitary pad is the most common and seemingly convenient choice for a menstrual product.And rightly so, since it is readily available, can be comparatively cheaper on a short-term basis and is widely advertised and accepted as the ‘right’ choice.

The lesser-known fact in this entire process is that the number of used sanitary pads disposed of every year in India amounts to 12.3 billion. As it turns out, the majority of these are non-biodegradable and non-compostable. Thus, the management of menstrual waste has proved to be a mammoth task due to the improper disposal of used sanitary products and unorganised methods of solid waste management by the municipal corporation.

period panty

What Does Sustainability Mean In Terms Of Menstrual Products?

Sustainability refers to the ability to maintain something at a certain level or in a certain way, and the definition of sustainability varies from person to person. Keeping all of this in mind, the most effective and sustainable sanitary products should not only be eco-friendly or reusable, but also accessible, economical, and easy to use. There is a wide range of alternative menstrual hygiene products out there, which most menstruators are not aware of.

  1. Disposable Sanitary Pads: In terms of eco-friendliness, conventional sanitary pads with high plastic ratio (containing Super Absorbent Polymers (SAPs) such as polyacrylate) not make a feasible option, since they take around 500-800 years to biodegrade completely. Improper sanitary waste management in our country makes sanitation workers susceptible to a wide range of debilitating diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. However, a sanitary pad may be the most sustainable option for many menstruators in India, due to its wide availability, user-friendliness and lower upfront cost.
  2. Menstrual Cups: One of these is the menstrual cup, which is a reusable, flexible, funnel-shaped product usually made of rubber or silicone. One menstrual cup can last up to 7-8 years or even more, and the cost ranges from ₹300 to ₹700. Brands like Sirona make cups out of medical-grade silicone that are inexpensive in the long run and last up to ten years with proper maintenance. However, it is to be kept in mind that menstrual cups are not a suitable option for those with vaginismus, IUDs, uterine fibroids and variations in uterine position. Since a menstrual cup requires insertion, it adds to the stigma of losing one’s ‘virginity’, which makes it a less popular option in the conservative Indian society.
  3. Cloth Pads: Another alternative is the cloth pad, which is made out of a triple layer of cotton. Cloth pads require comparatively more maintenance, and they can be washed with detergent or soap to remove the blood after each use. Cloth pads by EcoFemme can last for five years easily without replacement if used and cleaned properly at regular intervals. Although the upfront cost of cloth pads can be on the higher side (ranging from ₹150 to ₹400 for each pad), they can be used for a longer period of time. NGOs such as Goonj have taken up the initiative to teach menstruating people in rural India to make their own cloth pads, making them more accessible and budget-friendly. Cloth pads made from old pieces of cloth can also make a sustainable option (when used and maintained properly).
  4. Period Underwears: Period underwear is another brilliant innovation in the field of menstrual hygiene, as these fit just like regular underwear and can be washed regularly and used up to 5-6 years, just like cloth pads. Period Underwear may not be the most sustainable option for menstruators in India, as they are not as widely available as the cup or cloth pads, and can be quite expensive (ranging from ₹1000 to ₹3000). Brands such as Thinx make gender-neutral period underwear such as boy-shorts, boxer briefs etc. to make the process of menstruation easier for trans-men and non-binary folks.
  5. Biodegradable Pads: If one is reluctant to shift from disposable products, a good alternative would be biodegradable pads, which are generally made from bamboo or banana fibres, are easily compostable, and good for the environment. Brands like Saathi and Carmesi make biodegradable pads with prices ranging from ₹250 to ₹400 for a single box (generally containing 10-12 pads). They are priced higher than conventional plastic pads and thus, are not cost-effective.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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