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Blood, Blood Everywhere, Not A Pad To Absorb: Ways To Make An Emergency Sanitary Pad

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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.

Written by: Olipriya Roy

Aunt flow is somehow, somewhere always around the corner and often decides to pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes, it catches us unguarded — without any sanitary product available nearby. In such cases, making emergency pads out of household items, fast aid items or even washroom essentials is pretty easy. They require simple items and a little bit of effort. Here are a few ways to make them:

Toilet paper emergency pad

In situations where you have nothing except toilet paper, you can always use a thick multi-layered pad made of toilet paper. This makeshift pad can be used when you have nothing else around and can give you coverage for an hour or two depending upon your flow. The process, though, can be very messy and using clean toilet paper is always recommended.

Socks makeshift pads

Socks are liquid as well as sweat-absorbent, hence, they can be easily used to make a makeshift pad during emergencies. Wrapping a newspaper around the sock after giving it a square napkin shape prevents it from shifting a lot. These pads make up for efficient temporary pads and can provide coverage for a couple of hours, depending on your menstrual flow.

Representative image.

Cotton wool pad

Makeshift pads made out of cotton wool are easy to make and also provide coverage. Cotton wool, just like socks, is absorbent. A rectangular-shaped and pad like-sized cotton wool piece can be easily made into an emergency pad. However, wrapping the piece of wool in toilet paper is a must and multi-layered wrapping is always recommended.

Washcloth pads

Using washcloths as makeshift pads are not an uncommon practice. I have seen my mother use it numerous times and I have to use it several times as well. Washcloth pads have given me coverage up to four hours and that is as long as a regular pad. Here are a few things you need to always keep in mind while using a washcloth pad. A clean washcloth is the first thing you would want to use. Only a thoroughly cleaned and absorbent washcloth should be used for a makeshift pad.

There are three major ways to use a washcloth in a sanitary pad. The first one uses a rectangular pad-shaped absorbent clean cloth as a pad. This can, however, lead to leakage and provide coverage only up to an hour. The second way is to use a plastic sheet underneath the washcloth. This can last as long as two to four hours. The third way is to wrap toilet paper around the same washcloth to secure it further from shifting inside your underwear.

Cotton ball pads

Cotton balls, too, can be used as a temporary absorbent material. They are generally available in first aid boxes and are quite absorbent. Use seven to eight pieces of cotton balls together as an absorbent. It is important to remember to use only non-coloured cotton calls. Wrapping up these cotton balls in toilet paper and giving them a pad-like structure makes for a good makeshift pad.

cloth sanitary pad

Rag pads

Emergency rag pads can be made if urgent. One thing to remember when using a rag is to check if they are liquid absorbent or not. Menstrual blood tends to be thick for most of us and using non-absorbent material can only lead to messy disasters. Rag pads such as washcloth pads require cleanliness. Please do not use unclean rags as a part of your emergency pad.

Pads made of rags can be made by using a single rectangular rag wrapped around in toilet paper to ensure less shifting. If available, you can always use two pieces of rags instead of one. Using two pieces increases coverage time and decreases chances of leakage.

Tips for using makeshift pads

  1. Paper towels, paper napkins or tissues can be used to replace toilet paper in case toilet paper is unavailable or unattainable.
  2. Using toilet paper to secure your pad is always recommended. It prevents the pad from shifting.
  3. It is always recommended to use clean products while making emergency pads.
  4. It is not recommended to use wipes as replacement of toilet paper because they may irritate your private parts/public region.
  5. It is advised to carry panty liners and period panties in case you have no other sanitary product with you.
  6. You cannot reuse the cloth rag cloth you used to make an emergency pad for other purposes. It is advised to discard them.
  7. It is advisable to use your preferred sanitary product as soon as possible because these are only temporary fixations.
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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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