Menstrual management, through organic products or better, reusable products like pads and cups produces less waste, protects health and also fulfils a purpose of giving back. The impact becomes bigger when new age brands educate, share information and give choice.
Periods are as old as humanity itself. We all know the riddle of who came first, the chicken or the egg? For humans and many mammals- periods come first, then fertility and then only can come life.
Humans have evolved from walking to advanced transportation, space travel and even sustainable fuel for vehicles. But for the longest time, period evolution went from nothing to cloth to pads- and then it stopped there. In a few societies, women relied on dry sand and leaves to contain menstrual flow and as bizarre as it seems, even plastic bags or newspapers were used for period management. This could be attributed to how, for the longest time, pads have been viewed more as a luxury than a necessity. They are overpriced, inaccessible and not for everyone.
The humble cloth has been sustainable, yes; but it is unhygienic when it comes to period flow management. In some patriarchal societies, such cloth cannot be dried in the open, retaining dampness which has fatal consequences to the intimate health of women. In some cases, infections from using damp cloth for period flow management has been attributed to women losing their uteruses.
Even though pads have been around for centuries with tampons and the menstrual cup inching their way into homes in the 19th and 20th centuries, 60% of Indian menstruators still are not aware of any of these menstrual options.
In 2019, a village in Maharashtra, Beed, was in news for the most shocking development that still makes it to every other Menstruation Day story as a reality check.
Women in this village are opting for elective hysterectomies or surgical menopause. The reason was this- menstrual management takes not just a pad or cloth, but also water and accessible disposal. To competitively improve their chances at employment, women were opting for infertility- shelling out rates as low as Rs 25 and at ages shy of 30. Understandably, hysterectomy is a choice- however, it should never be a compulsion or a last resort. It is a moment of introspection for all companies that are in the menstrual hygiene category- what are we doing on our part to end period poverty?
At a time when we talk of beyond-the-world tech and innovations that make life simpler, we have a problem that has been neglected far too long- sustainable, accessible and affordable menstruation. An option free of health hazards, environment hazards and resistant to public health hazards.
It was during one such public health hazard, the COVID-19 pandemic, that many menstruators warmed up to trying the Menstrual Cup. They saw this alternative to sanitary pads and tampons which offers rash-free, trash-free and cash-free periods, three problems that made themselves more relevant as we were locked away from access, safe disposal and were heavily budgeting for these unprecedented times.
Menstruators received content education through internet where brands like ours put out videos, blogs and opened the forum to conversation through AMAs (Ask Me Anything sessions) or webinars where menstruators as young as 12 and as old as 48 could ask all they had to, pertaining to a “taboo” category, and worse – a controversial product.
Still, a majority of women are not open to cup-verting. They are not open to inserting a foreign object in their system thus are unsure of reusing one.
This is where the menstrual cup really proves its worth. It is made up of 100% medical-grade silicone, which is used in surgical equipments. It is a sterilisable material which makes it safe to reuse and completely hygienic. It is pliable- hence even if it looks like a lot to take in (literally and metaphorically), it can be easily folded and inserted. Once inside, it collects flow for up to 8 hours- making it a perfect travel, work and hassle-free period partner.
The virginity stigma must not be the one to be sustained, but understanding the sensitivities of users- organic pads, reusable pads, period panties and compostable pads are some of the period management devices women can use without harming their own health or the environment.
In the era of steel straws and a ban of single-use plastic, it is important to know that a single commercially-available disposable pad has plastic worth 4 polythene bags, taking 600-800 years to decompose. So, long after we’ve all been wiped off the face of the earth, our pads and tampons will still be floating in some ocean or corroding soil in a landfill.
But had this just been about the unforeseen future, we could delay change.
The impact is visible now.
Climate change is real- our hills and terrains, the air and water- all are suffering, and we won’t be far behind. Studies show how microplastics have made place in our plates- through seafood who ingest plastic in the oceans or plants that grow in soil corroded with carcinogenic polymer substances. It has even found its way into the placentas- the food source of unborn foetuses.
The economically vulnerable are the first to face the brunt of depleting water levels and scarce food resources – they must walk miles to access basic survival necessities.
So, for the perpetuity of our race and that of the planet and all that we love on it- we need education, awareness and acceptance for change that impacts all.
Sustainable menstruation is the new necessity of our times. A necessity for the present of menstruation- no longer are our conversations for the future.
We must also be mindful of taking everyone along on this journey to health and ecological sustainability. Brands must give back to society, albeit profit or CSR compliance sought by governments.
Menstruation is not a right of only those who can afford it. Menstruation and access to period products is for everyone- from sex workers to refugees and women in urban slums and rural, distant villages where access is limited and resources are scarce.
It should be our agenda to save the planet and be sustainable.
It should also be our agenda to ensure that no menstruator has to make a choice between a packet of milk and a packet of pads.
Menstruators must have a right to manage their basic bodily function each month, without having to be at the mercy of donations or extra expenditure. Hence, menstrual cups, reusable period products or you buying from a brand that donates to the cause of ending period poverty is the need of the hour. Period.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Deep Bajaj is the Founder & CEO of Sirona, a modern FemTech brand that Is solving period and intimate hygiene problems with its unique, category defining products and services. Being a keen observer of troubling feminine hygiene issues, Deep saw the lack of solutions to various issues that women face right from puberty to menopause. To fill this critical gap, he, with his co-founder Mohit Bajaj, formally started Sirona in 2015. The company has since been disrupting the feminine hygiene category in the country with problem solving products like PeeBuddy – India’s First Female Urination Device (Stand & Pee], SIRONA menstrual cups (used by over 1 million women, country’s highest selling menstrual cup brand], Tampons and other niche products. The team has also innovated many products like India’s first Herbal Period Pain Relief Patches, Oxo-biodegradable Disposal Bags, Anti-chafing Rash Cream, Period Stain Remover and more..
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The CSR Journal Team