CHENNAI: At a time when films promote the use and manufacture of sanitary pads, and government projects aim to make them available to more women, we need to pause and ask if a pad is a sustainable solution? The ‘cup and cloth’ campaign that was recently launched as a part of Aware’s ‘Sustainable Menstruation Tamil Nadu’ project, brought to light various issues surrounding menstruation including — health and hygiene, environmental impact, sustainability and even economic constrains.
Kavya Menon, co-founder of Sustainable Menstruation Collectives, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, said, “Recently there has been a lot of interest among NGOs and CSRs to address menstruation among low-income groups by providing them free low cost disposable pads. But the issue can’t be reduced to providing free napkins, while other socio-economic and cultural challenges surrounding it.”
This holds relevant given the recent news of a Class seven girl who committed suicide when her teacher shamed her for staining her uniform. The discussion also looked at solid waste management issues made worse by sanitary pads. “Used pads are rarely disposed as per Required by Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. Waste pickers handle discarded pads by risking their health – exposing them to diseases like e coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and pathogens causing hepatitis and HIV,” said Gopi Vijaya Kumar, social worker.
Sonal Jain, co-founder of Boondh, an enterprise working on menstrual literacy, destigmatisation, reusable alternatives to pads, said, “Seventy per cent mothers in India think menstruation is impure, as per Dasara report ‘Spot On’. So menstrual products are only a part of the solution. Bengaluru, with 17 lakh women, produces 19.2 tonnes of unsanitary waste every day.
Chennai can’t be far behind. It’s our responsibility to promote reusable solutions like menstrual cups and cloth pads.” Following the event there was a demonstration of how to use menstrual cups, or interlabia pads. There was also a discussion on ways to place bulk orders for school students, stores in the city that sell these products, and the need for extensive research on sustainable menstruation in the country.