Menstruation in India remains a taboo topic that drives women to be ashamed, patronized, and even temporarily banished during their time of the month. While for some it might be an issue to merely blush over and giggle about, for many Indian girls it could be disastrous for their education and thus career, as research shows that 1 in 5 girls in India drop out of school due to menstruation. The absence of an open discussion about the process and how it should be perceived, comprehended, and handled does not only stem from educational ignorance and toxic cultural myths, it also fosters them. By keeping the issue ‘under the rug’, girls are taught since puberty to feel burdened by their bodies. In an interview for the BBC, Anshu Gupta, founder of a non-governmental organization in northern India, insists that the root of the problem lies in how menstruation has always been treated as an isolated women’s issue. Gupta asserts that menstruation must be generalized and evaluated from a human health perspective.
Here in Tamil Nadu, menstruation is equally challenging. Fortunately, efforts to better educate girls and provide them with the necessary hygienic products are in place. One Aurovillian non-governmental organization by the name of Eco Femme is a revolutionary force that combines a profound understanding of the issue concerning menstruation in India as well as the sustainable and eco-friendly mindset of Auroville. By creating reusable products, women in India could easily avoid committing to purchasing plastic ones regularly as well as struggling to dispose of sanitary waste. According to Celia, a research and marketing specialist at Eco Femme, a regular disposable pad takes up from 500 to 800 years to fully decompose. Furthermore, the risk of developing infections and irritations whilst using a plastic pad is highly amplified in comparison to the Eco Femme’s reusable cloth pads which are nearly entirely organic, and can be used for up to 5 or more years, if well-maintained.
The entirety of Eco Femme’s profit is used directly to fund educational programs for local school girls who are truly in need of unbiased and shame- free menstrual hygiene guidance and instruction, since they seldom acquire it from their community. With the help of Eco Femme’s health and education specialists, they learn all about the intricacies of puberty, their menstrual cycle, how to properly use or insert a variety of sanitary products, not exclusively the Eco Femme ones. At the end of the sessions, the girls are provided with free-of-charge Eco Femme pads which they are encouraged to use.
One noticeably challenging limitation to this educational approach is its exclusiveness for girls. If the end goal is to eradicate the silence surrounding menstruation in India and instead create a healthy and open dialogue, then everyone should be included in the revolutionary transition, otherwise fundamental change will never occur, and an immense gap in the understanding of the issue will continue to exist and be hindering.
Eco Femme’s products are locally made with the assistance of other local non-governmental organizations. The Auroville Action Group Organization (AVAG), an organization that provides women with opportunities for financial independence, completes the stitching and the sewing process of the pads. WASTEless, an organization that is concerned with India’s waste and environmental problems, provides educational material and research concerning the dangers of sanitary waste. The coordination and support amongst the different organizations reflect Auroville’s core sense of community and its emphasis on a cooperative and communal lifestyle.
To find out more about Eco Femme’s origin story and products, please visit: https://ecofemme.org/
To read the BBC story mentioned, please visit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29727875