Washable, Reusable Sanitary Pads Superior Alternative to Disposable Sanitary Napkins: Experts

FARIDABAD / May 24, 2023: Reusable sanitary pads offer the best solution to attain sustainable menstrual hygiene in India, especially for young school and college students. Disposable sanitary napkins, which are 90% plastic and laden with dangerous toxins, are a serious threat not only to the environment but also to our health.

Sportswomen are role models for millions of young girls in the country. To honor their contribution to the nation, Saukhyam Reusable Pads is offering a free lifetime supply of reusable pads to all national and international-level women players. This was said by Anju Bist, Managing Director of Saukhyam Reusable Pads project of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. She was speaking at a function organized at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, ahead of the Menstrual Hygiene Day.

She added: “We are approaching various sports federations to conduct workshops across the country at various sports institutes and academies to make sportswomen better aware about the benefits of reusable pads in promoting menstrual health and hygiene.”

Padmashree Rani Rampal, Former Captain of Indian women’s hockey team, was the Chief Guest at the event. Also present were Swami Nijamritananda Puri, Administrative Director, Amrita Hospital; Dr. Sanjeev K Singh, Medical Director, Amrita Hospital; Ms. Pallavi Mittal, Head – CSR, Sikkim Urja Ltd. and Dr. Vandana Goel, Senior Gynecologist.

Speaking on the occasion, Padmashree Rani Rampal said: “Menstrual hygiene is very important for the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls. Unfortunately, millions of women in India, especially in rural areas, are forced to live with poor menstrual hygiene due to lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and affordable menstrual hygiene products. India can make a huge leap forward in sustainable menstrual hygiene through sanitary pads which are affordable and environment-friendly. This is the only way to introduce menstrual hygiene among rural women in a sustainable way.”

Disposable pads, currently popular in the market, are not only unaffordable for most women but also pose a major threat to our health and the environment, said Ms. Pallavi Mittal, Head – CSR, Sikkim Urja Ltd. “Just like Sikkim became the first organic state in the country, we are now working with Saukhyam Reusable Pads to make Sikkim the first disposable sanitary napkin free state in India. We have trained Asha workers who are now conducting awareness workshops and helping bring subsidized Saukhyam pads to remote, rural areas all over Sikkim. We will extend this work to all of the North-East of India as well.”

She added: “Instead of modern disposable pads, we plan to work with State Governments so that they may freely distribute reusable pads in schools in the future. This would drastically reduce the financial burden as well as reusable pads cost only one-tenth of disposable pads because there are no recurring costs.”

Dr. Vandana Goel, Senior Gynaecologist, said: “Disposable sanitary pads are harmful to the environment and the presence of cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as dioxins, poses great health risks to users. Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to the development of several kinds of reproductive and urinary tract infections. Reusable pads can substantially contribute to maintaining menstrual hygiene among women from impoverished backgrounds and rural areas. Saukhyam pads are lightweight, easy to wear, rash-free, non-allergic, and free of harmful chemicals.”

Saukhyam is the world’s first brand of reusable pads that uses banana fiber as absorbent. The absorbent in most disposable sanitary napkins is cellulose fiber and it is derived by cutting trees, leading to deforestation. Over 9,000 tons of menstrual waste is generated in India every month, clogging drains and littering the landscape. If every woman in India were to use disposable sanitary napkins, it will surely result in an environmental disaster. Reusable, washable pads made of cloth and banana fiber have none of these disadvantages. NITI Aayog has designated them as a “strong root for tomorrow’s India.”

Last year, NITI Aayog honored Anju Bist as one of the 75 “Women Transforming India.”

We are making reusable pads available in rural areas in large numbers due to the unmet demand for menstrual hygiene products, said Ms. Anju Bist, also known as the ‘Pad Woman of India.’ “The first 1-3 months are crucial when users are transitioning from disposables to reusable pads. Once they successfully make this shift, the user experience is far superior to disposables. Most women do not return to disposables once they experience the comfort of reusable pads, minus rashes and cramps,” she said.

Addressing misconceptions regarding the hygiene of reusable pads, Anju Bist said that as long as these are cared for properly, such as washing after every use and drying completely before storage, reusable pads are entirely hygienic to use. She added, “Reusable pads are not very different from the undergarments we use. We tested the microbial load on both brand-new and reused pads and found no significant difference between them.”

In addition to Sikkim, the Saukhyam team is also working this year in Odhisa, Rajasthan, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in partnership with Oil India, Kochi Shipyard Limited and Federal Bank to develop the last mile delivery networks in rural areas.

The project is an initiative of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Amma or Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi serves as the Chair of C20 this year when India has the Presidency of G20. C20 is the working group under G20 for all civil society organizations.

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