Archana Thayagam that is involved in the manufacturing and marketing of sanitary napkins not just exemplifies the power of a crusade for sanitation, but also speaks of the changing economic milieu of women.
When changing a practice can bring about a sea change in sanitary habits, it often becomes hard to chart a path for the transformation. However, Archana Thayagam, an SHG in Thoothukudi, has combated both the challenges in just over a year.
Undergoing training at a nearby village where they were taught to use the machine to manufacture napkins using natural products, the women set up the unit last year in September. They can manufacture up to 3o packets every day. The trust that completes a year this month, manufactures sanitary napkins without the use of chemicals. But, the most incredible part of the activities of the trust is a silent movement that it has spearheaded.
Challenging the ancient practice of using a cloth wouldn’t have been something viable for a SHG that manufactures sanitary napkins. However, the group of women — Jayakani and her team of workers, four in number, has successfully managed to make a business module. Jayakani says, “Initially, when we approached people, they were unwilling to switch habits. It was something that they had been doing for years: using cloths. Promoting sanitary napkins among such a group not just challenged their beliefs, but also created an alarm regarding their health.” “But, we spent considerable time creating awareness and acceptance by telling them that we used natural materials for making the pads and there was no need to worry,” Jayakani adds.
Today, the group promotes the products in schools and says that they have to target younger girls, who are nearing the age of puberty, to create awareness. “We don’t have much competition too, as the napkins that you get in the market have chemicals that may not be good for those using them. Ours is made using natural materials and it is priced at just Rs 18,” she adds.