CHENNAI : At a time when teenagers of the world are standing in unison on a world platform in their fight to save the planet, an individual effort of every size becomes crucial in contributing to this collective movement. Who would know this better than I Ishana, an 18-year-old entrepreneur who is bringing big changes with a small idea — of making eco-friendly cotton pads at an affordable price. After Ishana completed her schooling in 2018, she did not pursue further education. She decided to swim against the tide and take up entrepreneurship. Bold and confident about her idea, Ishana was determined to not only be a green champion but also provide employment for women in her neighbourhood — Ganapathy, a township in Coimbatore.
“Though I did not have the faintest idea of making eco-friendly sanitary pads, I had a flair for fashion designing even while I was a student in school. When I learned about the health hazards of using non-biodegradable sanitary napkins, I thought of discovering an alternative. I designed a piece of eco-friendly cotton sanitary napkin for my personal use. When I realised that it was a success, I decided to manufacture it in bulk and sell them at very reasonable prices,” says Ishana, who runs Ana Creations at Ganapathy.
When Ishana decided to not study further, her parents opposed her decision. However, when she explained the merits of becoming an entrepreneur with a social cause, they were convinced. “My parents have given me their full support,” says Ishana.The young entrepreneur started sewing the pads by using pieces of poplin cloth with two layers of thick cotton cloth placed inside for effective absorption of menstrual blood.
“The pad, which I sell for `120 each (pad), is reusable. Like any other innerwear, the pad can be washed, dried in sunlight and ironed for comfortable use. Since it is made of cloth, it does not harm the health of women nor does it pollute the environment even if it is disposed under the earth,” explains Ishana, who sources the material for making pads from Sri Venkateshwara Textile Mills, Palladam in Tiruppur district.
In August, she roped in female tailors who live in her neighbourhood. With the little money she had, she wanted to set up a boutique where she could make the eco-friendly cotton sanitary pads. When she convinced her parents about the prospects in her career, her father, a worker at a wet grinder manufacturing company, provided Ishana `4 lakh — an amount which he had saved for her wedding.
In the last two months, Ishana has brought about a change in the lives and economic status of these women.
Thirty-five-year-old Shanthi, one of the fifteen tailors working with Ishana, says, “Ishana’s idea of promoting eco-friendly cotton pads has provided me with a job opportunity. I earn around `400 every day just by working from home. I stitch around 60 to 70 napkins per day.”
J Suganthi from Avarampalayam, another tailor employed by Ishana, says, “Earlier, I had only a few job orders. I used to stitch blouses and salwars. However, after I got regular orders from Ishana to make the cotton sanitary pads, I have been busy stitching them throughout the day. And the income I earn out of these orders is quite sufficient to meet my family’s expense. This has made me confident and independent.”
Ishana makes around 200 to 250 pads every day. Currently, she sells the pads at her showroom. She has also retailed the pads at few beauty parlours in the neighbourhood. Currently, the pads are not available in any online portal. However, Ishana says that they will be available under the label ‘Ana Cloth Pads’ in Amazon and Flipkart, in a week.
Sustainable living is not just a fad for Ishana. She hopes that women make the switch despite the initial discomfort. “It is only the ‘use and throw’ lifestyle of the consumer culture that makes women reluctant to opt for such alternatives. Though the product is eco-friendly, the only difficulty they express is washing the pads and drying them along with other clothes in open areas. However, I would say that women need to take up such challenges to protect themselves from health hazards and stop using non-biodegradable sanitary napkins.”
In a short span, she is making a visible difference to the health of women and the planet. Bella, one of her customers, says, “The cotton sanitary pad is very comfortable and eco-friendly. When I felt the comfort of wearing it, I advised my daughter also to use it, and she too is happy use it.”A small step towards a big leap, Ishana plans to visit schools and colleges across the city and introduce the eco-friendly features of her product.
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