Beginning in November 2016, Saathi will provide education on menstrual health and hygiene and distribute biodegradable sanitary pads to women in rural Jharkhand. Saathi is embarking on this program in partnership with Ekal Vidyalaya, one of India’s largest education NGOs, which has a network of over 56,000 schools in every state in India.
A central aim of the #OneMillionPads Program is to better understand the impact of sanitary pad provision on school/work attendance and health, and to pilot the use of local pad composting schemes to minimize environmental impact. The ultimate result of the pilot will be is a proven framework for cradle-to-cradle pad provision which can be deployed anywhere in India.
Thank you for eliminating barriers to success for rural Indian girls and women! All donations fund the #OneMillionPads program.
1: Low Access to Sanitary Pads
Every year, a quarter of all Indian schoolgirls miss up to 50 days of school for a simple reason – they have no adequate menstrual protection. This is one of the main reasons for high dropout rates amongst school aged girls in rural India. Additionally, 31% of working women in India miss a month of work each year because of menstruation. While sanitary pads have been demonstrated to improve women's education, productivity and health, only 16% of women in India use them. Taboos around menstruation prevent women from being educated about their own menstrual health and hygiene. 300 million women are barred from using sanitary pads because existing pads are:
- Unavailable in rural areas
- Cumbersome/unsafe to discard
Problem 2: Sanitary Pad Waste
Simply providing sanitary pads, however, would create another huge problem for these women and their communities: pad waste. Most sanitary pads are made of non-biodegradable plastic, chemical additives and chlorine-bleached wood pulp containing cancer-linked dioxins. Because of the poor waste infrastructure, pads that do reach rural India end up in open trash-burning heaps or clogging and poisoning waterways. In some cases, the stigma against disposing of pads in public causes girls to burn them secretly beside their own homes, directly exposing themselves to the dangerous fumes. When all 355 million Indian women of menstruating age have access to pads, they will generate 1,000,000 tons of waste annually.
Saathi biodegradable sanitary pads support women's empowerment and health, and their environment. In rural India especially, the three are closely interlinked and both need to be preserved. Our founding team from MIT has developed a biodegradable, disposable sanitary napkin. 5% of the pad is made of plant-based plastics, the other 95% from banana fiber, one of the most naturally absorbent fibers abundant in India. In contrast to big-brand pads, which can remain in landfills for 600 years, Saathi pads biodegrade fully within 6 months, causing no damage to the environment. If composted, they can be transformed into organic nitrate fertilizer, or if digested into biogas energy.