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Did You Know, Just A Year’s Worth Of Sanitary Pads Does This To The Environment?

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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.

Sanitary pads have progressed from the raw stage of cotton layers which were bound together by a fibre sheet supported to a waterproof plastic layer at the bottom for abstaining from blood staining on the clothes. As new methods and designs emerged, ultra-thin sanitary napkins with gel cores, which absorbed the blood effectively and provided safety against unwanted leakages, became the new version of the product in the market.

Millions Of Sanitary Pads Are Disposed Of Every Month

Contemporary women enjoy the ease and comfort of using these synthetic sanitary pads, but many of them are not aware of the potential environmental and health hazards which these sanitary pads pose.

The convenience of disposal of sanitary napkins has made our lives effortless and sorted, but we are not cognizant of the dark truth of the awful imprint that they leave on the environment. 12% of 355 million menstruators of our country are able to afford regular sanitary pads and will dispose of about 433 million pads each month which is equivalent to approximately 150kg of waste.

The traditional sanitary pads need to be replaced by a more environmentally friendly alternative.

This connotes one year’s worth of a regular sanitary pad has adverse effects on the climate with a carbon footprint being 5.3kg CO2 equivalent.

Consequently, this would create peaked mountains of waste in landfills, additionally, they take years and years to decompose. Some women dispose of them in water bodies, which is further instrumental in the contamination of rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans. Wherein, they are potentially perilous to marine life if they ingest the sanitary waste. Moreover, the noxious chemicals that are used in the manufacturing of sanitary napkins are in fact, carcinogenic and are likely to leak out into the air which increases carbon footprint. 

Pads Amount For A Considerable Increase In Carbon Footprint

The core agencies of aggravated carbon footprint can be enlisted as;

Persistent Dioxin: The main culprit. There is a dark fact that is not known to everyone, regular sanitary pads are composed of a harmful chemical known as Dioxin for achieving the whiteness which signifies purity of the product. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared dioxin as a pollutant and cancerous which has the possibility of degrading the environment without any doubt which further contributes to the escalation of carbon footprint.

The threat due to chemically made sanitary napkins is an emerging threat to the environment which is equally grave. The act of burning or burying such waste can lead to soil and land pollution. This vicious cycle affects the life of all terrains

There Is A Desirable Way Out 

The utilization of purely biodegradable and chemical-free sanitary napkins is the most effective solution for safeguarding our body and environment. These varieties of sanitary pads are made from sustainable and natural materials with minimal to zero chemicals, for instance, bamboo fibre, jute fibre, cornstarch, and organic cotton are the dominant components of such products. The waterproof lining that is used in these bio- sanitary pads is made of biodegradable plastic.

Heyday is a novel day brand that introduces absolutely biodegradable and organic personal hygiene products to the Indian market with the sole aim of keeping women’s menstrual journey healthy, hygienic, and safe. These bio-sanitary pads are gentle on women who use them and do not cause any allergy since they are chemical and fragrance-free. They get degraded easily once disposed of off, thereby shrinking the carbon footprint and release of chemical pollutants into the atmosphere. 

A startup company under the title of Saathi pads has already been launched in rural areas. The word ‘saathi’ denotes companion in Hindi and also marks the biodegradability of napkins which are companions to the mother earth. It would take massive efforts for these newcomers to becoming members of rural parts of India. There is a distressing need of spreading awareness, by educating and informing people about the legit usage of these products. 

The Indian market around sanitary pads is a reflection of our consumer psyche which is based on the established comfort zone, which is mainly the convenience of using conventional sanitary napkins. The high price of biodegradable napkins does not go well with the underprivileged sections. 

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    […] Did You Know, Just A Year’s Worth Of Sanitary Pads Does This To The Environment? – A startup company under the title of Saathi pads creates biodegradable napkins and helps reduce the carbon footprint. […]

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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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