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Here is Why Women should switch to Reusable Menstruation Pads!

  • JWB Post
  •  May 28, 2015

 

We are really happy to see the issue of the menstrual health and awareness taking up with Indian Media. In today’s papers we’ve read about UGER, a women’s group in Udaipur.

A graduate of NID, Lakshmi Murthy, who had been already running Vikalp Design, a social design and communication initiative to talk about sex education, launched a new endeavor in 2011. The Uger project started with 6 young women from low income families, who were then trained to cut sew and produce the simple and beautiful pads that Uger makes today. The mission was simple to educate young women about menstrual hygiene and benefits of the reusable products.

Lakshmi conducted PhD studies on sustainability in menstruation management to study the problem in depth.

Here what she shares about the project in one of the interviews:

The current situation on the ground is quite terrible. Plastic garbage lying in rural locations in Rajasthan was not common ten years ago. Today garbage is everywhere which includes sanitary waste such as napkins and diapers; however the volume is much lower than in cities and towns. Sanitary napkins are picked up by dogs, chewed and scattered around, causing both environmental and aesthetic pollution.  Young girls are beginning to switch from cloth to commercially available napkins. Cloth is increasingly seen as old fashioned. The migration toward sanitary napkins is an upwardly mobile action, a status symbol, an “aspirational” product – in the same way as people move toward newer models of mobile phones or cars.

In the same breath, girls and women are also using inferior menstrual products available locally such as the“Time Piece” – a fleece like inexpensive , synthetic , non woven fabric that is not healthy.

We wanted to give young girls and women informed choices. We wanted to communicate to girls and women that there is dignity in reuse and that it is also a healthy option if reusable products are managed well. We thus included the whole community – especially men and we have been breaking silence on the subject of menstruation and management through the Surakshit Mahwari Abhiyan or Safe Menstruation Campaign.

One component of this larger piece of work is the Uger Pad initiative. The word Uger means a new beginning in Mewadi language which is the local language of South Rajasthan. We saw Uger pads as a new beginning in the way we think about and manage menstruation. We gratefully acknowledge the help given to us by Ecofemme at Auroville, Tamil Nadu, as we were developing samples of the Uger pads.

Ramnagar kachi basti – Udaipur – is a slum settlement of Lohars or Ironsmiths. The Uger Pad Centre is located in this basti. At present four women from the basti work at the centre. Production is supervised by a coordinator from Jatan Sansthan.  The pads patterns are cut by hand and machine stitched.

The pads have been tested by many users in the field over two years. It lasted at least a minimum of 60 washes, users have washed their cloth pads with local washing powders and soaps that are harsher than popular branded detergents. Also, our pads are made by women from lower economic groups – the families get a nice supplementary income.

The single biggest myth people have around reusable pads is that it is so unhygienic, it is not sanitary – it is cloth! (Totally forgetting that most of us wear clothes and undergarments made of cotton or some kind of cloth most of the time). This has lead to associated beliefs like the one which says disposables are more hygienic compared to cloth, and only products you can buy in a store are of good quality.

We create Uger’s pads from natural cotton which does not irritate the skin. Cotton and cloth has been used for women for centuries, so we are simply providing a way to re-experience that. Another unique feature of our pad is that we use white coloured inserts. It is very important to see the colour of discharge EACH TIME – EVERY TIME. White and light colours are the way to monitor what is coming out of the body. Green, pink and yellow discharges are signs of infection. HENCE the surface that is next to skin must ALWAYS be white. Hence Uger is white on top.

We have three varieties of cloth pads at Uger:

–          Insert pad – pad with a towel insert for heavy flow

–          Light pad – for light days ( no towel)

–          Panty Liners – for normal days

Based on our calculations – a user will spend anywhere between Rs 400 to Rs 1000 over 12 to 13 menstrual cycles in the year. This expense is for an estimated 120 to 150 pads – depending on brand and type.  TheUger pad user dispose 5 to 6 pads at the end of the year spending between Rs 400 to Rs 600.

While disposables and reusables have their pros and cons, here’s why I, Lakshmi, believe in ‘reusables’:

Cotton fabric/ reusable cloth as such, will not cause any health problem. Cotton is a natural material and feels cool on skin; the fabric itself does not cause any skin rashes or allergies.

Most of the raw materials (non woven polymers, polyacrylate gel, plastics)  in disposable pads are not natural. These have been giving users several health problems including boils, severe itching, fungal infection and contact dermatitis. Some of the problems in disposables come from their very nature:  as they feel dry and do not leak, there is a tendency to wear them much longer which is also a cause for the associated health problems.

In terms of investment in health, a reusable cloth pad is a good option as the user will be wearing natural material. However men have to be sensitised to support reusables, offices have to be sensitised to support reusables. For example wash rooms in corporate offices must have large separate wash basin stalls for washing cloth and provide hanging spaces and so on.

I dream of a future when women are open about their menstrual needs and feel no shame when using reusable pads.

We want to continue our work in Uger and create reusable products in different categories like diapers and incontinence products, breast pads and even tissue paper.

We need to go on the war path to ensure that nothing is left lying around indefinitely on earth, and products have closed loops.

Would you choose to switch to reusable pads? Weigh in your pros and cons in the comments.

If you would like to experience Uger’s natural reusable pads, you can read more about the variants available on http://www.jatansansthan.org/products/ . Once you have decided what you would like to buy, please write to Bhupen Sahu at buyuger@gmail.com to buy your pads. Uger Pads do not have an ecommerce website, so you will need to do a bank transfer to buy their products. Their responses are very fast, and once they receive your payment, your pads will be shipped from Udaipur via Speed Post.

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