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I Came Across This Video Comparing Different Menstrual Products And It Changed My Perspective!

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I was 12 years old when I got my first period. As is the norm in India, I was handed a sanitary pad by my mother and instructions to use it. Five years later, I came across a video by Buzzfeed India comparing reusable pads and menstrual cups.

Finding About Menstrual Cup, A Miraculous Invention Of Humankind

This was a landmark video in my life because that was the first time I came to know that there were options to take care of period blood other than pads and tampons, and excited with the news, I ran to my mother telling her about these menstrual cups and asking for her permission to shift to these miraculous inventions of humankind. I was sure that she would be enthusiastic as well and say yes. However, my mother was strictly against it.

Why, mamma!?” I whined just about being told to shut up with a glare. I never brought that topic up again but never stopped thinking about it either. It kept on bugging me. Pads, on the one hand, are usually handed to girls in India when they have their first period, and most of them continue using them for their lifetime.

Representational Image. I ran to my mother telling her about these menstrual cups and asking for her permission to shift to these miraculous inventions of humankind..

Traditionally, pads are an absorbent item worn externally to absorb period blood. They are made from various materials depending on style, type, and country of origin. At the moment, there are mainly two types of sanitary napkins- Disposable and Reusable.

As is evident from the name, disposable pads are meant to be thrown away after use. The main materials that make a disposable pad include bleached rayon (cellulose made from wood pulp), cotton, and plastics. In some cases, fragrance and antibacterial agents are also added.

Disposable pads can be panty liners, ultra-thin, regular, super, overnight, and maternity. Each type has its unique quality and use. These pads, however, have to be thrown away after just one use and are said to be ecologically harmful.

Period Poverty Is Still Very Much Prevalent In India

Moreover, the garbage collectors at the dump have to take it off by hand, and that challenges their health as well. India is a country where period poverty is very much present, and not many menstruators have the purchasing capital to buy sanitary napkins every few months.

Therefore, they often wear ragged clothes instead of pads. While this is a prototype for reusable pads, it is very unhygienic and a cause for a lot of health problems. Reusable pads, as the name suggests, are pads that can be used again. They are made using a cloth and are meant to be washed and used again.

The wings are mostly wound around the underwear with buttons or velcro or, in the case of wingless ones, are just held in place between the body and underwear. While it is safe for the environment, friendly to the pockets (comparatively), they are not very effective in absorbing a menstruator’s period blood.

According to Aishwarya from Buzzfeed India, they were the cause of a very stressful period. Her complaints included them being not absorbent enough, constantly turning around, and the stains not going away despite washing them five to six times. Overall the reviews have been similar, pointing towards an ineffective product of absorbing menstrual blood.

Why Menstrual Cup Is Gaining More Popularity Among Menstruators

The next most popular period product is tampons. Unlike a sanitary pad, tampons have to be inserted inside the vagina. If it is correctly inserted, it will absorb blood and start expanding.

However, alongside period blood, it will also absorb your natural vaginal lubricant, thereby changing the pH levels, increasing the chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS that is a life-threatening disease Lack of proper disposal options is another problem that endangers the environment.

Now, moving on to menstrual cups, which are gaining popularity among menstruators gradually. It is a bell-shaped cup that collects the menstrual blood and the stem that is used to handle the cup easily.

Unlike pads and tampons, a menstrual cup does not absorb period blood but collects it and has to be emptied after every 4-12 hours, after which it should be cleaned and inserted again.

Menstrual Cups Are Safer Than Pads And Tampons

Menstrual cups seem comparatively better than pads and tampons. While a menstrual cup costs a bit higher than pads and tampons when first bought, given the fact that one cup lasts for about 10 years, in the long term, menstrual cups make a smaller hole in our pocket.

It is also safer than pads and tampons, and unlike tampons, that like menstrual cups need to be inserted into the vagina, cases of toxic shock syndrome are very rare with menstrual cups. It is also environmentally safe, especially with the new biodegradable cups.

Comparing these three obviously declare menstrual cups as the winner. However, every menstruator also needs to consider various factors such as access to water, hygiene, and the course of the flow. However, it is advisable that every menstruator studies up on different period products and also teaches the same to the next generation.

Each of these products has advantages and disadvantages, and hence every menstruator needs to make an educated choice. So, let’s hope for a future where a menstruator is not merely handed a sanitary pad forever and for my mother’s permission allowing me to shift to menstrual cups.

Featured Image Source: Canva
Image is for representation purposes only
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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 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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