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The Nation Wants to Know… The Most Effective Menstrual Product!

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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.

The discussion on commercial production of various types of menstrual products is emerging in the market. Menstrual products like cloth pads, sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, period panties, bio fibre pads are available besides public argue upon which product is the best. Who should decide the most effective sanitary material?

Menstrual Products

It estimated that more than 800 million people menstruate daily. There are a plethora of menstrual products available in the market from cloth pads to period panties. These products boast to be an efficient menstrual product. In an urban context, people buy a variety of products on trial and error basis. They experiment with a few products to decide which is more comfortable. An individual using a menstrual cup is secure with the process of using it while another individual may find it uncanny. So it depends upon the user that uses those products. 

Let the user decide their product! Image provided by the author.

The Number Game

It is reported that the feminine hygiene product market is a billion-dollar industry where business persons are getting benefited by selling these products. The world Feminine hygiene products market expected to reach a whopping 42.7 billion industry by 2022.

Our previous generations had no access to such a wide range of menstrual products. All they did was to use a simple cloth, wash it, dry it and then again reuse it. The chances of Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI) increases if the reusable material is kept in shady places or stored in unhygienic places. In a study, it reported that 71.4% of the females had high chances of RTI’s as they were using reusable cloth during menstruation.

Many rural communities use a cloth as sanitary material. According to the National Family Health Survey IV report, 62% of the young women in our country use cloth during menstruation. There is no harm in using a cloth pad which is clean and hygienic before use. 

Different menstrual hygiene products used widely
Representative image.

Know More About The Product You Use

Sanitary pads are used by only 36% of the menstruating population according to National Family Health Survey IV report. There are quite a few issues with the usage of a sanitary pad. An important reason is they are made of non-biodegradable material (plastic). Sanitary waste produced will live until a very long time in the environment. It reported that one sanitary pad takes around 500-800 years to decompose.

Other issues include leakage if worn for a long time. Also, it may cause rashes and irritability if worn more than the specified time. The gel used in the pads reacts with the blood to produce a type of smell which may not be pleasant to some. A study reports that the layers used in the pad making process are detrimental to health as well. To counter this, business companies came back to using cotton cloth pads in a fancy manner by incorporating designs and colour. It had issues relating to rashes and irritability. Various products entered the market like bio fibre pads, biodegradable pads. An alternative narrative by sustainable menstrual hygiene expert Jaydeep Mandal was that products need to be ‘compostable’ rather than being just biodegradable.

Tampons are also widely used by many people. Tampons are used by sports persons as it gives a comfortable feeling while performing strenuous activities. Issues with this were Toxic Shock Syndrome if worn for more than 8 hours.

Then came menstrual cups. They are an environmentally friendly option as it reduces the ecological footprint in the environment. If we compare it to the usage, one cup is used by one person for at least 4-5 years. All the other products mentioned were one-time-use products which add to the waste burden. Also, the cup is user friendly once the users get accustomed to using it. The issue with the cup is that people may not find it comfortable to insert it. Some myths dispelled about cups is that they don’t remain virgin after using it. These myths and stigmas ensure that people do not get the right information and be aware of the true nature of the product.

Period panties, not that popular in our country are effective product as they come with a waterproof layer to soak even heavy flow. One can wear them just like regular underwear. They are good to go! Here is a link that has information regarding the same. 

Way Forward

We may argue about which product is the most effective. The bottom line is that each product has its pros and cons. No product is ideal. You can decide what you want to use, it is your choice. We have to be aware of each of the sanitary material that we are using. 

Let the user determine the effectiveness of the products they use!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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