Beyond Products: Period Justice Takes Center Stage at the UN

Beyond Products: Period Justice Takes Center Stage at the UN

Did you know there's a massive global platform dedicated specifically to discussing women's rights and gender equality? It's called the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Imagine this: hundreds of people coming together, including government officials, UN representatives, NGOs, and others to discuss critical issues like poverty, leadership, equality, and everything in between!

Every year in March the CSW tackles a different theme. In the past few years, they've focused on topics like technology's impact on women and achieving gender equality. This year, the theme was “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”

Last year we had the opportunity to be part of a panel held at the Red Cross and this year we were invited to speak at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. We were part of a panel on "Beyond Products: Flowing Towards Equality Mechanisms for Menstrual Justice." The event was co-hosted by the WHO, the Mission of Costa Rica and the Sikh Human Rights Group. Panelists included the Minister Counselor Daniel Zavala Porrras of the Mission of Costa Rica to the UN, Kenyan Senator Gloria Orwoba, Manjulaa Narasimhan, WHO Head of Sexual Health and Well-Being, Kristin Kagetsu, one of Saathi's co-founders, Dr Harshita Umesh, UNICEF India Youth Policy Champion, Marysela Zamora, Nosotras Women Connecting and Bethan Walters from the Sikh Human Rights Group. The event covered different initiatives happening in Costa Rica, Kenya, and India that helped to raise awareness about the issues of period poverty, access to menstrual products and access to health education. It was an honor to be there and bring this important issue to light on a global stage.

Here's a summary of some of the points we shared during the panel:

Saathi's Work: Addressing Period Poverty Holistically

Here at Saathi, we're passionate about tackling period poverty. When we started Saathi, we were struck by the staggering statistics. In India, only about 18% of women had access to menstrual products. While this number has improved to 36%, that still leaves millions without access. This lack of access creates a significant plastic pollution problem with disposable pads.

We knew we couldn't just provide a quick fix that created another problem. So, we took a holistic approach, focusing on both access and sustainability.

Innovation and Sustainability

We started by developing a pad made with completely biodegradable and compostable materials, with banana fiber as our main absorbent material. This not only reduces plastic waste but also supports local farmers by utilizing an agri-waste material.

Distribution and Education

Reaching women and girls in rural areas requires more than just getting the product there. We needed to ensure proper education on menstrual hygiene, product use, and disposal. This education is crucial for preventing infections and promoting healthy practices.

Building a Sustainable Model

Saathi is committed to inclusivity. Our manufacturing unit employs an all-women staff, and we utilize a "Robin Hood" model. We sell our products online in urban areas and are then able to subsidize pad distribution to women and girls in rural communities who lack access.

The Impact of Saathi

Since our launch, Saathi has made significant progress. We've surpassed our initial goal of distributing one million pads, and as of last year, we've distributed over two million pads. We're currently working towards our new initiative of distributing ten million pads.

By participating in global platforms like the CSW and by focusing on innovation, sustainability, and education, Saathi is making a real difference in the lives of women and girls in India. Stay tuned for future updates on our impactful work!

Now, you might be surprised to learn that the CSW isn't the only platform where you can speak up about global issues. There's another one called the Conference of the Parties (COP) where different countries come together to discuss pressing matters related to climate change. The only thing is that the COP has been mentioned more in mainstream media than CSW yet there have been only 28 COPs and 68 CSWs. There's not only more media coverage but more funding for COP than CSW. Does that say something about the interest and emphasis on issues related to women and gender equality versus climate change? Just some food for thought. Comment your thoughts below and let us know what you think!


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