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Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019: Women entrepreneurs make menstruation ‘au naturel’

Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019: Many menstruating women, about 55% of all women, complain of allergies, rashes, and yeast infections while using sanitary napkins because of chemicals used in the products on offer.

gurgaon Updated: May 28, 2019 11:59 IST
Kankana Roy Jain
Kankana Roy Jain
Women entrepreneurs,sanitary products,hygiene
Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019: Women from Gurugram villages manufacture Samanvi biodegradable sanitary napkins in Khandsa.(Sourced)

It’s been a year since India scrapped the controversial 12% tax on women’s sanitary products, but even then a small section of the 31-crore menstruating women, as per the 2011 census, are able to use it because of reasons ranging from affordability to hygiene.

Many menstruating women, about 55% of all women, complain of allergies, rashes, and yeast infections while using sanitary napkins because of chemicals used in the products on offer. In rare cases, chemicals especially chlorine, used to bleach the napkins, can cause ovarian cancer and endometrial disorders. But a handful of women from Gurugram and the National Capital Region (NCR) are attempting to ease the discomfort and pain associated with bleeding by making gentler, organic, bio-degradable sanitary napkins, period pain relief patches made from natural ingredients and stirring conversations around menstruations, in both urban and rural communities.

For city resident Monica Bindra, it all started when her daughter would complain of rashes by the third day of her period. A chemical engineer by profession, Laiqa found out that this was something many girls and women face and that it happens due to the high amount of plastic used in a sanitary napkin.

“My daughter’s constant struggle led me to do some research. The top sheet of most sanitary napkins is laden with plastic. It can lead to a lot of urinary tract infections as well as endometrial rashes and diseases,” she said.

After two years of research, in 2019, Bindra and Delhi resident Nazish Mir started manufacturing sanitary napkins that they say have less than 7% plastic and are free of all chemicals, especially chlorine.

In another part of the city, a team of nine women from Khandsa, Tikli and Aklimpur villages work towards making sanitary napkins that are 100% organic and bio-degradable. They call these pads Samanvi and use the tagline ‘meri apni pehchaan,meri apni udaan (my identity, my freedom)’.

“We have substituted plastic and cotton in regular napkins with pulp from bamboo and banana trees as absorbents. These are completely natural and extremely gentle on the skin. After the sanitary napkins are made, we sanitize them for half an hour before packing so there is no probability of any infections,” said commerce lecturer and city resident Sangeeta Yadav, who leads this venture.

Ashwini Alizad, a marketing professional, agrees. “I have been using natural, bio-degradable sanitary napkins for the last few months. They feel lighter and there is no irritation,” she said.

“After normal delivery, a woman bleeds for almost 40 days. Rashes and allergies are extremely common during this period and use of natural fibre can reduce the harm caused to the delicate vaginal region at this time. Organic sanitary napkins, though not in use among my patients right now, can be extremely beneficial for young girls as the age of puberty continues to decrease,” gynaecologist Dr Astha Dayal said.

While organic, bio-degradable sanitary napkins make menstruation more comfortable, they are allowing the entrepreneurs to also start a conversation around the sensitive psycho-social subject that enables the society to see it as a natural, biological phenomenon and something to be hidden.

Yadav, who has been working with women from 21 villages in Sohna and Pataudi, said that by employing rural women to manufacture napkins, she not only wants to ensure that they have a source of livelihood, but also that they spread their awareness in their immediate community.

Delhi-based Gauri Singhal, who started Floh, a feminine hygiene brand that makes tampons and organic period pain relief patches made from eucalyptus and menthol, said these patches work as a substitute for pills that most women and young girls pop when experiencing lower abdomen and back pain during periods.

First Published: May 28, 2019 01:27 IST