What is Period Poverty and How Saathi Addresses it in India

a woman handing pads to another woman outside

This is Part 2 in our series of blogs about Saathi’s mission to make sanitary pads that are good for the body, community and environment. In our last blog we covered a bit about the history of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and our #OneMillionPads initiative to set the context for the broader goals we are aiming towards.In this blog we will talk about what period poverty is, what is the context of period poverty in India and what are some of the consequences of it. 

women handing pads to another woman


What is Period Poverty:

Period poverty is the inadequate access to menstrual products and menstrual hygiene education, which has been a serious barrier in working towards menstrual equity. The instances of not only the lack of availability of sanitary napkins but also washing facilities and waste management solutions make it challenging to address.

Period Poverty in India: 

In the past decade or so, much light has been shed on the issue of period poverty in India. According to the Indian Ministry of Health, more than 82% of menstruating women do not have access to sanitary products and instead rely on unhygienic solutions that can cause serious medical issues. The inability to access necessary period products, or the lack of proper facilities to manage their periods, often causes young girls to miss school and even drop out. In India, each year, more than 20 million girls drop out of school after they start menstruating.

In the absence of proper menstrual protection, many women resort to using rags, dirty cloth and even ash, bark and sand to stem menstrual bleeding, which exposes them to high risk of infection. Women who use cloth are often not able to properly sterilize them because of societal taboos against washing and drying them in public. Improvised alternatives to pads are also uncomfortable, unreliable and lack adequate absorbency - making it very difficult for women to manage a work or school day while on their period.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own”      ~Audre Lorde

Period Poverty & Waste Management: 

The matters become worse and  when you consider the harmful impact of disposable period products on the environment. This issue has elevated the need to assess how the issue of access is solved. Traditional sanitary napkins contain petroleum-based plastic and can take more than 600-700 years to degrade. The lack of reliable waste disposal systems in most Indian cities and rural areas means that disposable menstrual products are dumped in water bodies or vacant land, contaminating the environment. 

Plastic Waste created by Period Products

The statistics for plastic based menstrual products are alarming. The small percentage of Indian women using sanitary pads today already generates 100,000+ tons of sanitary pad waste each year - a figure that could rise to 1,000,000+ tons if disposable pads were used by all Indian women of menstruating age. Plastic pads are frequently burned for disposal, generating CO2 emissions & carcinogenic fumes. Every day, the shame around periods and a shortage of resources stop people in India from living their lives. Our mission is to make sure every person who has a period has access to sanitary pads.

In many parts of the world, the COVID-19 lockdown triggered a shortage of disposable period products. Severe lockdown restrictions disrupted production and logistics. Many school girls in India who receive free sanitary napkins as part of a government scheme were suddenly left without access to a necessity. Periods don’t stop during a pandemic, but managing them safely and with dignity has become a whole lot harder. In particular, they are finding it difficult to source products, have reported intentional inflation of prices, and serious issues with sanitation and reliable access to information. In many countries, period products have become scarce and vulnerable girls and young women, in particular, are going without.

In some cases, stigma and shame associated with menstruation is on the rise, as girls have no other option but to use unsafe alternatives and being confined to their homes, they are no longer afforded privacy.

Women holding saathi pads


Saathi 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. 

Saathi fights period poverty by partnering with organisations that aim to eradicate the underlying causes. We provide our biodegradable and natural products to underserved groups in India and also run workshops on menstrual hygiene and how pads work.

How can you help?

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 are launching 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. This campaign will be able to accept contributions from most countries but they will only be tax-deductible in the US.

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 3 of the series, we will be talking about period equity  and some of the solutions to address lack of access of sanitary pads.

About Saathi

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  UN, 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 - Responsible  Consumption & Production, 13 - Climate Action & 3 - Health & Well-Being among others..

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.
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