- In India, 88% women don't use
sanitary napkins due to lack of awareness, access and affordability
- The Better India and Aakar
Foundation is setting up a sanitary pad factory in Ajmer, Rajasthan, to
manufacture and distribute bio-degradable, low-cost sanitary napkins
- These low-cost, bio-degradable
sanitary napkins help improve women's health and well-being.
Menstrual hygiene management is
still a taboo in India. Millions of women across the country still face
significant barriers to a dignified experience with menstrual hygiene. A
majority of rural women use clothes, sand, ash and rags for feminine hygiene.
Lack of awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene and lack of access
to clean pads and toilet facilities affect Indian women
In an exclusive interview with Medindia, Aakar Foundation shared about the
importance of menstrual hygiene and the manufacture and distribution of
low-cost bio-degradable sanitary napkins
to end the age-old menstruation
‘Anandi is India’s first 100% compostable and disposable sanitary pad made from indigenous agri-wastes, which can decompose within 180 days.
Can you share with our Medindia's readers some
of the statistics from your survey on poor menstrual hygiene among Indian women
that prompted this venture to manufacture low-cost, bio-degradable sanitary
Menstruation, the most
natural bio-physiological phenomenon in a woman's life cycle, is brushed under
the carpet as dirty and impure throughout India. Women hesitate to discuss the
topic and hence menstrual hygiene is poorly managed. With little or no access
to clean pads or toilet facilities most women in India are left helpless to
deal with those 'difficult days' of the month.
The implications are deeper and more pervasive than any
statistic can attempt to portray.
Issues such as lack of awareness, lack of access, and affordability
force approximately 300 million women to rely on old rags, plastic, sand, and
ash to address their sanitation needs during their menstrual cycle.
Reproductive Tract Infections are 70% more likely in women
who use unhygienic materials during their periods.
Some of the most detrimental implications of the current
menstrual hygiene state in India affect both education and livelihood. In
India, adolescent girls (age 12-19) miss five school days in a month due to
Around 23% of these girls actually drop out of school after
they begin menstruating. This hinders one quarter of the next generation of
India's female population from pursuing higher education. Similarly, women in
India are forced to miss roughly four working days a month resulting in
forty-eight days of lost income in a single year. The ramifications of this
loss manifest themselves in everything from food availability to health and the
larger space of women empowerment.
Q: How can these pads
help with solid waste management? How do you plan on educating users on safe
disposal of sanitary pads?
India is evidently
facing a serious crisis. Sanitary waste disposal is not merely a waste
management issue; it's a health and human rights issue that affects the entire
country. As there is currently no standardized method of sustainable sanitary waste
disposal, every menstrual product disposed contributes to either soil, air or
water contamination. Any soiled sanitary products are a breeding ground for
infections and diseases. Stagnant menstrual blood accumulates bacteria such as Escherichia
or E coli,
which multiplies at an alarming rate.
Most women in big cities use commercial disposable sanitary
napkins, not knowing that some of these products pose health hazards due to its
chemical cocktail content.
The advent of plastics brought in the good and the bad. SAP
and polyethylene used for back cover of pads make the pads waterproof. The top
sheet is kept dry with polypropylene. Modern sanitary pads are made almost
entirely using plastic material, with inferior plastic material making it
According to a report, it is estimated, a potential of 9000
tonnes of sanitary waste (432 million pads) is being generated annually in
India. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of this waste is either flushed down
the toilet or end up dumped in a landfill.
Our pads "Anandi" are
India's first ~100% compostable (patent no.3129/MUM/2015) and disposable pad.
We are also presently
perfecting our technology to produce raw materials from indigenous agri-wastes
and plant material like banana fibre, water hyacinth and jute pulp. The use of
sterilized, disposable sanitary napkins, such as Anandi, prevents infections,
illnesses, spread of diseases such as cervical cancer, and labor complications,
all of which claim thousands of lives each year.
Given the right
composting environment conditions, Anandi can fully compost within 180 days.
We do not use any
chemicals, plastic, SAP or gel in our napkins as compared to all other leading
brands in India, which all claim to be bio-degradable. Anandi Pads follow American
Compost Council & European Compost Council standards.
Q: Given the large size of the
Indian population, do you plan on setting up more low-cost sanitary pad
manufacturing units in other states in India?
Our model is currently to set up the Aakar Mini factories at rural
and semi urban areas where women are trained to make these low-cost napkins to
be sold in their communities where there is lack of both accessibility and
affordability while also generating livelihood for rural women.
Aakar Innovations enables women and SHGs to produce
affordable and high quality sanitary napkins, using its proprietary technology,
which is then sold locally through its unit Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) distribution
Q: How do you plan to sell these in retail so
that more number of underprivileged women avails of its benefits?
already makes affordable ~100% compostable and biodegradable pads- priced at
Rs. 40/28 for 8 napkins.
We are also planning to launch in the urban market in
stores & online stores in 3 months.
Currently, our product can be brought by placing an order
via email and pads are available in all our production units across 14 states
in India & 5 Countries in Africa. Anyone can buy our pads.
Q: These low-cost sanitary napkins
are sold on Nykaa.com. How will it reach the target group who may not be aware
of these beauty apps?
This is a limited
edition campaign aimed to raise funds. We have been working on zero budgets when
it comes to marketing. Social Media influencers from various backgrounds are
helping us amplify our message. Vogue, Elle, Your Story, Homegrown, Vagabomb,
Creative Gaga have
all joined hands with us and featured our product. Economic
Times mentioned about our campaign in one of their articles. The timing with
#padmanchallenge worked in our favor. We had our inbox flooded with messages
from people who wanted to support us.
Q: What is your opinion on 12% GST on sanitary
Neha Tulsian of NH1
design says, 'Being a woman myself, I do not agree that female hygiene products
should be free. They should be cheaper. Not free. Taxes on sanitary napkins do
not sound like a good idea at all.'