Thursday, 1 August 2013

Break free!

The social stigma of openly airing one's views on the issues of women is still attached to every one of us. How many of us are willing to openly sit and discuss the menstrual cycle, its physical and emotional effects on a woman in the confines of our home? Are we ready to ask our adolescent girls how they view the peripheral issues covering the menstrual cycle? Or rather how many of us ourselves can openly pronounce 'we are fit' to light the lamps, 'fit' to roam about the house freely and the least of all- dip our hands in that rice bag?
Abnormal Myths- all associated with the very normal cycle in every woman's life. The so- called conservative households still segregate their women during those days, however educated and sophisticated they may be. The entire household knows when you are supposed to get your cycle, in fact there are women who sleep on balconies in apartments! This is when every adolescent girl would like to rest one's head on the lap of her mother...Aren't we denying that simple gesture to our young? One is required to sleep alone, required to self wash the mats, pillow cases, bedspreads, dresses and everything under the sun every morning. It promotes personal hygiene, for sure, I agree. But imagine the plight of women who already have the physical discomfiture of cramps, pain and menorrhagia- over bleeding.
picture courtesy- menstrupedia
And a visit to a place of worship when you are 'impure' is unimaginable. A woman is the best creation of God. How come she is not allowed to pray and visit His Abode during her 'bad' days? The so-called elders had taught us too many 'don'ts' during those days. The rice bags remain a 'no touch' area. How is it supposed to rot when someone in her periods touches it is still baffling to me. The plants and flowers...the garden of our homes are supposed to be the biggest stress busters. When a woman is emotionally drained and physically down, all she looks for is something, anything to make her smile. Flowers- always bring a smile to us. Are we not supposed to go near them? Water the plants? Not wear a new salwar during those days though I had ogled for it? Ridiculous!
If women in the cities by themselves face such inconveniences, imagine the plight of rural women. There is absolutely no education to the little girls on their menstrual cycles that they are caught by surprise the first time. Discussing the normal physical changes in a girl's body never happens at home, mothers seldom educate their little ones. They are totally unprepared for what ensues. The commercials that 'educate' such women on personal hygiene are just 'hooded'.
Sanitary napkins- the issue I wanted to discuss is finally here. The sanitary pads market in India is a multi billion rupee business, with the demand topping a whopping 10 billion pieces per annum. The growth is estimated at 20% in urban areas, quite acceptable. The rural areas still lag behind, with just 7% growth, the main reason being the lack of awareness and open discussions and personal hygiene education. The girls of the rural areas need more awareness of the menstrual cycle and their personal hygiene. I sincerely wish the Women's Self Help Groups of the rural areas are being roped in for this service. As women, we can spread awareness among us, to reach out to those millions of girl children out there who don't have an inkling of what their periods are. The Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) is one such initiative that has borne fruit in Puducherry. More such initiatives are required to bring positive changes in the otherwise 'closed' communities.
Disposable pads are definitely an environmental hazard, though they boast of being made of cotton, they contain polyacrylate and are rolled from polypropylene, the linings made of polyethylene! All these ingredients can ignite series of health troubles ranging from skin irritation to respiratory infections. Polyacrylate is the main ingredient of latex house 'paints'. Probably we are using a killer that contains the most petroleum by products. And polyethylene the worst of all- the most common plastic that takes centuries to decompose. Can you imagine the single napkin we use takes 800 years to decompose? What are we leaving our children? Mountains of used sanitary napkins untreated. I definitely wouldn't like that be a legacy I leave behind.
Is there any other alternative? Yes!
Welcome to the world of cloth napkins. Simple to use, washable, definitely re-usable and can decompose easily. Our mothers, grandmothers have been using it and let us give them a hearty welcome. Presenting eco femme- an initiative by women, for women and of women. The washable cloth pads are made by the rural women through AVAG, which in turn conducts menstrual education seminars and discussions. Switching over to cloth napkins is something that I am seriously contemplating with right now. The product comes with a wash proof bag to carry them easily, they can be washed easily too. It is not that bad to wash away one's own blood, is it? Soaking them for half an hour can do the magic- simple hand or machine wash later would suffice. Imagine the cost cutting- the reusable pads can be used for anything between three to five years! It keeps us safe from all that petroleum that we are sitting on top of!
Cloth pads by Eco Femme- they look lovely, don't they?
Are you still 'whispering', 'staying free' or 'care free'? What would you use if you are left with options of choosing cloth and disposable napkins? I would like to know. Looking for a healthy discussion on the issue at hand. As women who are empowered, educated and liberated, we have a responsibility to our society- our lesser fortunate women. Spread the message as much as you can and please feel free to discuss. Talking of menstrual cycle and sanitary napkin is not a taboo anymore.


  1. Quite thought provoking. Though I am not convinced on the part of re-using it but it sounds logical. I mean, we are creating hills of garbage every month, as you said. I think we need such products and more awareness. I am feeling little guilty too.

    Great initiative and the old lady dancing in the end of the video is really cute.

    1. Thank you Saru- for the time taken to view the video and comment here. Guilty- the feeling is mutual. I do wish we could do our little for the environment and our women...

  2. Yes, sanitary napkins are an environmental concern. And I do agree with what you have written on the myths surrounding menstruation. Luckily, in my family, we never had such rules like no worshipping God etc. But I see it widely prevalent. I actually made pickles this year when menstruating. It is ridiculous the rubbish that filters down from one generation to another.

    1. Lucky You! rachna, i had to overcome too many obstacles as i come from a very conservative family from a rural area, though i had well read parents. Pickles??? Good Lord! People out there might get heart attacks :P LOL!

  3. 1.our ancestors kept away women ..on superstitious reasons..(but whic helped thm take relief from daily routines like cooking, washing etc).
    2.A forbidden visit to temple ,,may b to prevent her from going her outside home(may b ancient days wmn lef t home for collcting water and temples). so as to decrease chances of getting any infection kind of.
    3.Re-usable pads..good idea .. but will nt increas top -line or bottom line of our corporates..( we ar living to wrk,earn , consum,e and die).
    4.Are we polluting our earth.. only by napkns...(dnt u see aqua fina bottles at marige halls, the list is endless)..if wmn get some hygiene by using napkins..why stop ? best, if the napkins in mkt wer made of poly substances.. why nt try some disposable stuff made of jute or cotton, eco - friendly , and are disposable!

    1. Thank you so much for the detailed comment. I don't accept the reason of 'infection' used to tie down women at home during those days...I agree, we pollute. But why create this mammoth garbage when we can easily adopt reusable cotton?


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