This is Part 3 in our series: Saathi’s mission to make sanitary pads that are good for the body, community and environment. In our first blog we covered a bit about the history of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and in our second blog we talked about what period poverty is, the context of period poverty in India and how it relates to waste management and plastic waste. In this blog, we will talk about what period equity is and why a sustainable solution is so crucial for a more equitable future.
Period Equity & Equal Access to Information:
Period Equity refers to equal access to hygiene products, but also to education about reproductive health.
The most commonly recognized definition refers to the affordability, accessibility and safety of menstrual products. But menstrual equity is not just defined by products — it is also about education and reproductive care. It’s about making sure that people have the means, support, and knowledge to decide how they want to take care of their menstrual health. And it’s about finally ending the stigma around periods that has prevented not only decision-makers, but also healthcare providers, educators and individuals from ensuring that menstrual health is a priority.
But we know it’s more than that. In fact, the definition is growing and changing, as voices from all over the world continue the conversation about period health, product access, affordability, education and safety. Education towards period health starts from knowing & understanding the body and being aware about various parts of the body. It is very important for menstruators to understand the why behind menstruation. In developed countries, most people wouldn’t think twice about access to menstrual products or not knowing about periods because they usually have heard about periods in health class or from their mom or older sister. Period products are readily available at grocery stores, pharmacies and other general stores. There’s quite a lot of products available in terms of sizes of product and quantities as well. There are even multiple types of products for example sanitary pads, tampons, period underwear, menstrual cups and reusable pads. In cities in many developing countries, the situation might be the same. However, there are also significant portions of the population in developing countries who don’t have access to any of those options and may not even have the purchasing power to buy the products themselves so they would rely on a male member of the household to prioritize purchasing menstrual products. Additionally, they might be shocked when they first get their period because they were not exposed to education about periods in school or able to openly talk about them in their house. These situations lead to dealing with periods with a lot of uncertainty and poor practices.
Equal Access to Products:
Most likely if we are reading this blog, we have access to menstrual products without thinking much about them. If we consider that we are quite fortunate not only to have access but also to be able to make a choice about the type of menstrual product we use, we might look at the situation more deeply. Why is choice important? Aren’t all menstrual products the same? We have choices for so many other things at the store, from toothbrushes to razors to brushes and combs. Yet, for menstrual products, we have only recently started to have more options. Choice is important because menstrual products are not one size fits all. Womxn and girls are all different shapes and sizes and have all different types of flow from thin to thick, and low to high volume. It would only be natural that this would mean we all need different solutions for our different flow types and different vagina shapes. Then on top of that, we are making the shift toward a more sustainable world because our planet’s resources cannot sustain our current habits. If you look at the number of sustainable options, they are quite scarce even in places where menstrual products are accessible. The most common sustainable menstrual product available is the one which is inserted in the body. A lot of menstruators do not feel comfortable using menstrual cups if they are allergic to rubber or latex, have vaginismus, recently had gynecological surgery, given birth, or had a miscarriage, using an intrauterine device for birth control because sometimes it’s necessary to shorten the string attached to the IUD so that you won’t pull it out when you remove your menstrual cup. In underserved communities, they are non-existent. You may be wondering why sustainable options are needed in these underserved communities. We should just provide any pads because any pads are better than none. Providing unsustainable options, just causes more harm to an already struggling community because products are being introduced that just become waste which doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle it. The road to period equity is a long journey but with ownership and collaboration this can be achieved.
The Need of a Sustainable Solution -
As we combat period poverty’s consequences, we must also think of the environmental impact of period products to avoid adding another burden to disenfranchised communities. Saathi’s goal is period equity with the planet in mind.Tackling the taboo and providing free period products is only part of the equation. To truly help people and put in place a sustainable, viable solution, we must also focus on increasing the accessibility and affordability of natural and organic period products that don’t cause environmental harm. The waste management in underserved communities & rural areas are very broken which leads to ending up all the waste in the landfills destroying the quality of soil, increasing the CO2 emission and destroying even the quality of life Saathi has aimed to work towards period equity 5 years back with the initiative #OneMillionPads Campaign. In India, only 18% women have access to sanitary pads.
Here are three reasons why a sustainable solution is essential to period equity:
- Many conventional menstrual products are harmful to the environment. Most lack any kind of transparency when it comes to ingredients. Pads contain chemicals of concern that are unnecessary. Not only this, but there is also an increased likelihood of health issues with period poverty, such as vaginal and reproductive tract infections. This creates a greater need for period products with clean ingredients in the fight for period equity.
- Saathi is taking action with providing ingredient transparency and safer period products. This also aims to make organic and natural period products more accessible for everyone.
- In addition to the exposure to chemicals of concern, many menstrual products are laden with plastic which pollute waterways, streets and beaches. This disproportionately impacts low-income communities that have under-funded waste disposal systems.
- This is one reason why plastic free period options must be the norm, to prevent further plastic pollution impacting the same communities in the long run.
- Climate change is predicted to unequally and deeply impact poorer people, who already have more economic and health vulnerabilities. Those in poverty will be more exposed to the compounding effects of a rapidly changing climate. And these stressors will create more burdens that keep people in poverty.
- We must thoroughly and whole-heartedly, use soft ecological footprints to combat period poverty if we don’t want to add more stress to the system.
Solution: True Period Equity
True period equity addresses the issue of period poverty and the lack of access, as well as the need for a sustainable solution to conventional period products. Organic and natural products need to be affordable so everyone in all financial positions have access to them. Because all people with periods should be able to choose better for themselves and for the environment.
Let us imagine what happens if instead of sustainable menstrual products we provide plastic containing menstrual products to underserved communities and rural areas. As these areas do not have infrastructure to manage single-use plastic products we will end up causing more harm than good to the community. In the long term, the pile up of the garbage over time will seep into the land affecting the food source and health of the community which creates more inequality.
Saathi fights period poverty with partnerships with organisations that aim to eradicate the underlying causes. We donate our biodegradable and natural products to period organizations that provide free products to those who need them.
We are working towards bringing period equity in India!
This year has been challenging for implementing our #OneMillionPads initiative but we are committed to providing pads to more menstruators and would like to invite you to join us this year. We have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support 5000 womxn and provide them with sanitary pads supply for a year. With your support, we will be donating up to 600,000 pads to womxn from underserved communities. It only takes $20 to provide sustainable menstrual products to 1 menstruator for the entire year.
To help us reach our goal of supporting 5000 menstruators with biodegradable sanitary pads in India for an entire year, please consider contributing to our campaign! Our Give India campaign is for all contributors in India with 80G tax deductible benefits, while the GoFundMe campaign is for contributors from all countries outside of India and has 501c3 tax deductible benefits.
Check our Video here
In Part 4 of the series, we will be talking about women health & sustainability and how both of it is interrelated.
About the Series
We have been reflecting on the work we have been doing over the past 5 years and wanted to share more about the complexity of the issues that caused us to start Saathi. We are launching a series of blogs about Saathi’s mission to make sanitary pads that are good for the body, community and environment. Because there are multiple issues we want to address, including period poverty, waste, period equity, sustainability, and women’s health, we are covering the topics in a series instead of in just one post. We hope this 8-part series helps to open the conversation around these topics and that you share your thoughts with us in the comments or use them as an opportunity to raise awareness in your community.
Saathi is an award winning social venture which has a patented technology to convert agri-waste into absorbent materials. Our sanitary pads are 100% biodegradable and compostable made from banana and bamboo fibers, which convert into compost in 6 months of its disposal. Saathi pads are good for the body🩸, community and environment. We are on a mission to revolutionize the hygiene industry as a consumer products company that makes products in a sustainable and responsible way.
We are recognized by the United Nations, TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best Inventions of 2019, Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards and Expo 2020 Dubai among others for our innovative, social impact and sustainable work. We are working towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 12, 13, 3, 9, 5, 6, 8, and 14.
Check out a short video of our story here and Follow us at @saathipads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Youtube to learn about more facts and myth busters about sustainability, women’s health, and more.
Comment down below where you first heard about period equity and how you think we can ensure a more equitable future.
Thank you for joining us in this mission to bring period equity to 5000 menstruators!