Forget chunky pads, stains and rashes, a group of city women are promoting the use of menstrual cups and cloth pads, which also have ecological benefits.
'Green the Red' campaign was started in the city to promote sustainable menstruation
BENGALURU: Menstruation is uncomfortable. Period (pun intended). But making this dreaded time of the month more comfortable for women in the city and across India, is a group of women dedicated to erasing the taboo around menstruation, while also being ecologically conscious.
Out of the 160 tonnes of garbage produced on a daily basis in the city, 90 tonnes is sanitary waste — primarily sanitary napkins and diapers. With garbage already being an issue that the city has been struggling with, a group of almost 100 women are trying to promote sustainable menstruation in the city — which is beneficial to health, the environment and is more cost-effective than the disposable sanitary napkins and tampons available widely in the market. These women, most of whom are part of the now pan-India ‘Green the Red’ campaign, are going to companies, apartment buildings and schools to educate and empower women to talk about periods and taking a sustainable route while dealing with it.
What is sustainable menstruation?
Sanitary napkins go straight from our bins to landfills, along with the rest of our garbage. This is not only hazardous to the environment as the materials are non-biodegradable, but also to the manual labourers who have to come in contact with this on a regular basis. Sustainable menstruation looks at reducing the impact on the environment while finding alternatives that ensure comfort too.
These alternatives are menstrual cups and cotton sanitary pads — both of which can be reused for several years. Dr Meenakshi Bharat, a gynaecologist who practices out of Malleswaram and is active in promoting sustainable menstruation, says, “From March this year, we have actively been talking about this in Bengaluru. Firstly, we want women to be comfortable with their period. Switching to cloth pads and menstrual cups isn’t just environment-friendly, it’s healthy,” she says.
Menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicon, while cloth pads are made from cotton. Both can be washed in cold water and stored till the next period. However, cloth pads must be dried in the sun to remove bacteria, says Dr. Bharat.
“The menstrual cup collects blood rather than absorbing it, and has a capacity of about 20ml. So you have to wash it out only about every 8-10 hours — reducing the frequency of change, even for women with a heavy flow,” adds Dr. Bharat.
This is especially useful for women manual labourers, as they are out on the field all day. Dr Bharat adds that menstrual cups are beneficial for any woman over the age of 18, as it involves insertion, while cloth pads can be used by younger girls. The only time a menstrual cup cannot be used is post delivery.
What is ‘Green the Red’?
This campaign, supported by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), started ahead of International Women’s Day this year by a group of six Bengaluru women.
“We started working on this in 2016. We initially focused on running groups, as women in sports are the more likely to be willing to switch to menstrual cups from sanitary napkins. This then grew organically into a pan-India campaign, with more women realising the benefits and comforts in using cups and cloth pads,” says Sandhya, one of the earliest members of the campaign.
In Bengaluru, Shell, Central Bank of India, Essilor, HP and IBM are some of the companies where sessions have been conducted for employees. Stalls have also been set up at santhes, colleges like New Horizon College, running events and even in rural areas like in the Tumkur district.
“Since March, we’ve done about 70-80 sessions. Now, sessions happen in Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and more cities,” says Sandhya.
She adds that the thought behind the campaign was always the environment, then about comfort, and then about cost-effectiveness. Over the last six months, people have been very open to talking to about menstruation, and even men have come forward asking Sandhya and her team to hold sessions and put up stalls.
“We haven’t been able to reach out to the state/central governments yet, but the officials we meet at events and santhes have been very open to our ideas. I am working on getting the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to promote menstrual cups and cloth pads,” she says, adding that she will also be approaching the Karnataka GST council to reduce taxes on cloth napkins.