Muhamma, a gram panchayat in Alappuzha district in Kerala aims to switch to eco-friendly menstrual products altogether. To reduce waste generation, the panchayat decided to encourage women to cut down on the usage of synthetic sanitary pads. The village aims to make the change to cloth pads and menstrual cups. If it accomplishes this feat, Muhamma may become the first-ever village in India to rid itself of synthetic sanitary napkins completely.
Panchayat president J Jayalal explained the reasons for the decision to TNM. “We have learnt that the plastic content in a packet of sanitary napkins is equal to four plastic carry bags. So, what is the point in banning plastic carry bags? That is how we decided to begin with napkins.”
As part of their plan, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers will visit every household in Muhamma. They will spread awareness about sustainable menstrual products like cloth pads and menstrual cups. The village will also see awareness camps and classes in schools. “Around one lakh used napkins are generated on a monthly basis. We don’t have technologies to treat this waste scientifically. Now they are being dumped in soil and water and are causing pollution,” Jayalal said.
The ASHA workers will estimate the number of women who need cloth pads or cups. Once they get the approximate numbers, they will order and distribute a maximum of four cloth pads and one menstrual cup. The women will, however, have to pay a small amount of money. The distribution of cloth pads and cups will be completed in two months, according to Jayalal. They have also teamed up with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). It is a Bengaluru based non-profit organization that will help them with the distribution process.
Around one lakh used napkins are generated on a monthly basis. We don’t have technologies to treat this waste scientifically. Now they are being dumped in soil and water and are causing pollution. – J Jayalal
The benefits of switching from synthetic pads to menstrual cups are many. A menstrual cup can last for five years. Therefore, it can replace more than 750 sanitary napkins. To manage menstrual waste, switching to more sustainable products is imperative. Sanitary napkins contain numerous harmful chemicals. When burned, they release toxic fumes like dioxins that are harmful to human beings as well as the environment. Using cloth pads and cups minimize health issues and are eco-friendly.
“A cloth pad can be reused for a period of three-four years,” said C. Jayanthi, medical officer, Community Health Centre, Muhamma. “We are sure that once these napkins and menstrual cups are distributed, we can totally turn into a synthetic napkin free village. People were not aware about it earlier. It was easy to provide awareness to school-going girls. We have also asked them to persuade others at their home to switch to environment-friendly napkins,” Jayalal added.
Prior to this, the Alappuzha municipality has distributed 5000 menstrual cups to women free of cost.
However, while the project in Muhamma has good intentions at its heart, the implementation of it may be tricky. Menstrual cups are tricky even for educated, urban women. For rural women, they might tend to seem confusing. Saumya, reports The News Minute, is a college student who lives in Muhamma. She is unsure about the initiative. “My cousin, who stays in Alappuzha, has used menstrual cups. She says it caused her irritation and that she was uncomfortable. I am very worried.”
Suchitra, a homemaker from Muhamma, says, “The ASHA worker had come. She explained the need for using eco-friendly pads. But, we have confusion about how to switch suddenly. Earlier, I used cloth instead of pads. How difficult it was! Moreover, it was a pain to wash and dry them. So we have no idea how cloth pads will be different. This is the first time we are hearing about cups. They have explained how to use it, but I can’t be sure about it until we start using the cup. Anyway, we are ready to give it a try.”
Prior to this, the Alappuzha municipality has distributed 5000 menstrual cups to women free of cost. In June, Minister Thomas Isaac inaugurated the Thinkal Menstrual Cup project in Alappuzha.
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV