KOCHI: This is one item that a woman can't make do without. Sanitary napkins an integral part of her life from the moment she attains puberty till menopause. Napkins have come a long way and have undergone changes over the years in terms of the material used. If in the good old days, our grandmothers had to be content with cloth, women today are spoilt for choice. But at what cost?
However, things are changing. In the era, when 'go green' is becoming a byword, how can this essential item remain unaffected. Today, napkins made of environment-friendly materials are becoming a rage. While cloth features high among the list of materials used to make sanitary napkins, there are some made using diverse but organic materials like bamboo and corn fibre.
According to Minal B Shah, super stockist in Kerala for Heyday sanitary napkins, women are turning to pads made using materials other than plastic.
"Allergy is one of the main reason. The materials used to make napkins that are now available in the market cotton, gel and plastic. Many of them are even perfumed. Since most of these materials are synthetic, they have an adverse effect on the skin," she said.
Minal said Heyday is the brainchild of Deepanjali Dalmia. "She came up with the idea to make a sanitary napkin out of biodegradable and organic materials that are compatible with the skin. Driven by the knowledge that many sanitary napkins available in the market contain plastic, bleach and other chemicals, she researched plant-based alternatives. She discovered that a combination of bamboo fibre and corn made a for a healthy alternative," she said. However, as is the case with novel things it takes time to garner a good and sizeable following.
If Deepanjali was prompted by a medical issue to seek and find an alternative, Meera Thampan, who came up with Mita sanitary napkins, found the problem of disposing of used napkins a daunting task.
"When I came back to my hometown from Dubai, I was at a loss as to how to dispose of my soiled sanitary napkins. This led me to search for an alternative. I realised creating a reusable one that is biodegradable is the answer to my predicament," she said. Her search led her to make cloth napkins.
"Mita sanitary napkins are made of cloth with a rubber lining to make it leak proof. Old and discarded cotton cloth is used to make the pads. I cut the cloth in the same shape as that of the commercially-made ones. These napkins have wings with press buttons stitched onto them. This ensures the pads stay in place," she said adding the pads come in three sizes.
A solace in those days
True to the meaning of its name, Saukhyam, the pad made of banana fibre, provides happiness and a sense of well-being to the user. "Banana fibre is a naturally occurring absorbent substance and has medicinal properties,” says Anju Bist,
co-director Amrita SeRVe (Self-Reliant Village). “Nobody has used banana fibres for reusable pads. Mata Amritanandamayi wanted us to do this.”
First, the stalk is cut. Then it is put in an extractor machine, where it is converted into thin strips. These have to be washed in baking soda, to make them soft. Thereafter, they are dried in the sun for five days. Then several women in the villages administered by Mata Amritanandamayi make the pads. “It provides a livelihood for them,” says Anju.
However, the one deterrent for a customer is that it is more costly than the disposable pads. The prices range from Rs 200 to Rs 2,000 depending on whether you are buying individual day/night pads or in packs. “But these can be reused for up to three years,” says Anju. “On the other hand, a woman ends up spending Rs 60,000 over her entire menstrual period during her lifetime.”