Social taboo prevents sanitary pads from reaching more women

Sanitary napkins are usually made of tissues and water-proof polythene.

Without treatment, polythene could pose hazards to the environment as it’s very hard to be decomposed.

However, a startup company in India, has solved the problem with a new product, sanitary pads made of degradable material.

SOUNDBITE(Non-English): VIMAL KOTIYAL, Associate-Aakar Innovations
“People used to throw sanitary napkins anywhere and it gets mixed with other solid waste on landfills and in drains sometime. This waste doesn’t decompose and poses hazards to the environment. But this bio-degradable sanitary pad has a quality that if you put it under soil, it will decompose in 80-100 days on its own. So unlike others, this pad is non-hazardous to the environment.”

Aakar’s eco-friendly napkin is promising, as sanitary pads industry in India is growing an annual rate of 18 to 20 percent.

However, the manufacturer has a new headache now.

“Billions of sanitary napkins are being thrown away by women all across India every year. As a result, they are degrading the environment. Bio-degradable sanitary napkins which are being made here could be answer to the problem. But now the challenge is…how to market these product in the open market?”

As talking about sanitary pads is still seen as a social taboo in India, Aakar gains many new buyers still in a way of “women-to-women.”

SOUNDBITE(Non-English): KAMLA JOSHI, In-charge, Bio-degradable Sanitary-pad Project
“Earlier, women working here used to hesitate talking about sanitary napkins like all other Indian women. I have also not worked before at sanitary pad making factory so I also used to get shy when talking about it. But now, I don’t hesitate in discussing about it in public.”

SOUNDBITE(Non-English): HAMEEDA, Sanitary-pad Maker
“Women used to ask where do you work and when we answer them that we work in a sanitary-pad making unit, then they demand for the pads. Many of them hesitate to buy it from a store as there are mostly male sales workers who are employed in the stores.”

A 2011 AC Nielson survey revealed that only 12 percent of 355 million menstruating women in India is using sanitary napkins.

But the demand for sanitary napkins has grown fast over the past years, as the prices are becoming affordable.

The government is also promoting the use of sanitary pads.

Currently, many of the 20,000 pads produced every day by Aakar are bought by government departments and non-profit organizations promoting the use of sanitary pads.

For Aakar, it’s still far from a real success until its products go into a real market.

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