Probably in a first, a civic body in the country is distributing menstrual cups for women - for free. The Alappuzha Municipality in Kerala has launched "Project Thinkal" with the objective of encouraging the use of these cups instead of non-biodegradable sanitary pads.
During the first phase of the programme,5,000 menstrual cups will be distributed for free to female residents. 280 cups have been distributed already - just two days after the launch, Municipal secretary Jahamgeer S told Express.
"Thinkal" is a joint venture where the civic body has joined hands with HLL Lifecare Limited (formerly Hindustan Latex Ltd ), who produce the cups. The project is funded by the CSR Initiative of Coal India Ltd (CIL) - another government-run company.
"An average woman uses at least 156 napkins a year, while a menstrual cup can be used for five or six years. If 5,000 women start using cups, the use of around 39 lakh pads can be avoided," Jahamgeer said.
"Menstrual cups are very hygienic and convenient than sanitary pads. But they are only available on e-commerce platforms. But then HLL came forward and agreed to manufacture them for us. We are also grateful to the CIL for funding the project," he added.
The HLL-Alappuzha Municipality camaraderie goes all the way back to the great floods of 2018, a disaster that severely affected the district. Thousands were forced out of their homes and around 47 relief camps were opened in the Municipality limits alone. The disposal of sanitary pads from the camps was a major concern for the local authorities, before HLL gifted them incinerators to burn these.
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"That was when this thought was born. Sanitary pads won't get decomposed even after remaining in the soil for many years," Jahamgeer said.
The project was named "Thinkal" which means Moon in Malayalam because women in old days used to look at the moon to calculate their menstrual cycle, he added.
However, the biggest challenge in front of the Municipality is the huge popularity of napkins among women. Menstrual cups, meanwhile, are yet to enter the mainstream.
To counter this shortcoming and to spread awareness about the cups, the civic body has opened a help centre which has been receiving many calls.
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The cups are made available in front of the Municipality office and at the Kudumbashree/CDS office at Kaichoondy Junction.
"Our aim is to make this campaign a huge success that the whole country can adopt it. It won't be halted midway no matter what happens. We will try to reach out to the entire women-population in our limits," Municipal Chairman Thomas Joseph said.