Our visit to EcoFemme was a much anticipated one for the group. Started in 2010, EcoFemme creates washable cloth pads that are, “good for you body and the environment”. EcoFemme is a social enterprise, a commercial organization that has a specific social objectives that serve as its primary purpose. It was developed out of the founder’s work with Village Action, a neighboring NGO that works to empower village women. She was looking for an alternative to relying on donor money and searching for a sustainable way to generate income to support village women. While in New Zealand she stumbled across a no brand name cloth pad, and the idea was born.
Feminine hygiene products, pads, tampons, and panty liners, create hundreds of thousands tonnes of waste every year. All of that waste contains plastics that do not biodegrade easily. In fact, it can take over 500 years for one pad to degrade. This is a world wide issue, but it is front and center in India, where waste management leaves much to be desired. Eco friendly feminine hygiene products, like menstrual cups and cloth pads, can be life changing for everyone, men included.
A few years ago I ditched disposable feminine hygiene products in favor of a menstrual cup. I no longer had to carry around boxes of tampons in my purse or worse, have to ask around if anyone had a spare one if I’d forgotten to bring some with me. However menstrual cups are not ideal for every woman for a variety of cultural or personal reasons. In India especially, feminine hygiene product disposal is more than just an embarrassing hassle, it also negatively affects the environment.
After beginning to sell the cloth pads, The founder of EcoFemme realized that most women who lived in local villages were not receiving proper education around menstruation. Many women were still being subjected to ritual seclusion, a practice based on the belief that during the menstruation period the woman is unclean.
She realized that this product would benefit more than the women in the western world who wanted a more natural feminine hygiene product, and so she started the Pad 4 pad and pads for sisters programs.
Pad 4 pad is a program in which every pad purchased also helps to pay for holistic education around menstruation for young girls in government schools. In 2011 the Indian government started giving free disposable pads to girls aged 10-19 in an attempt to prevent young girls from missing school during their menstruation. Because habits are formed early, EcoFemme tries to reach young women as early as possible so that they know there is an alternative to disposable pads. The other program is Pads for Sisters, which works to help economically disadvantaged women over the age of 19 to afford the cloth pads.
Overall I think we were all greatly inspired by our visit to EcoFemme. If you’re interested in learning more or supporting this awesome social enterprise you can here: https://shop.ecofemme.org/int/