We live in a country where around over 1 billion of sanitary waste is generated every single month and all of that goes straight into our already stretched landfills. The waste management scenario is in dire straits in our country with around 70% of waste that can be treated effectively getting dumped without any treatment. Menstrual waste being one of the most neglected area. While most of us wait for the government to take action, a group of 10 women in Goa decided to take matters into their own hands and work towards solutions.
Meet the friends of the environment – A Self Help Group (SHG) named Saheli who started working on the solutions for bringing an environmental friendly sanitary napkin in the market back in 2015. After research and through financial support given by the firm Teeratan Enterprises, an eco-friendly product was created that is made of pine wood paper, silicon paper, butter paper and can be decomposed within 8 days unlike the plastic based conventional pads that take more than 100 years to decompose completely. Today Sakhi, an eco-friendly sanitary pad is being sold at a cost of Rs. 40 (8 pads) and till now the group has produced around 2,000 sanitary pads and are selling 50 packets weekly.
Breaking All The Taboos And Working Towards An Eco-Friendly Solution
Jayshree Parwar, the head of the SHG started this initiative from her home when many in that village simply shied away because they were too ashamed of the concept. In 2015, Jayshree Parwar accepted the challenge and set up a manufacturing unit at her home. Taking utmost care in terms of hygiene and sanitation, together with her group she started producing sanitary napkins. Till now they have sold 1000 pads and they manufacture 50 packets in a day.
The basic problem with regular sanitary pads is that they are not easily degradable in soil after use. But the pads we manufacture are made of pine wood paper. So, these pads after used are buried in mud and gets degraded within eight days, said Jayashree Parwar, who heads the Self Help Group.
Explaining more about the product, Jayshree added, “Unlike conventional pads, these pads are made from natural fibres and are 100% chemical free and that’s why these are more skin- friendly. They are also treated with UV radiations before they are packed.”
The concept of manufacturing bio-degradable sanitary pads is not a new concept, it was first mooted and developed in the country by Tamil Nadu but in Goa, this is the first time any Self Help Group has taken up such an initiative.
Making An Impact
Looking at the commitment of the group many individuals and organisations are making an effort to market such environmental friendly solutions in a big way. Sumit Singh, Governance Expert on Swachh Bharat Mission, Urban Development Department, Government of Goa, is assisting the group by helping them market their products simply by involving them in all the Self Help Group meetings in Goa.
The aim is to make people aware about these solutions. Environment-friendly products are the way to a swachh future. My aim is to set up one unit in all the 14 councils of Goa so that there is a market for the eco-friendly products. All of us know there is a waste management problem in our country, especially menstrual waste, teaching each one of us to decompose sanitary napkins effectively is next to impossible task. The easy way out is to give products that are less harmful to the environment. That’s exactly what these women are doing, added Sumit Singh.
Speaking to NDTV, Sumit Singh also highlighted the fact that Sudhir Mahajan, Secretary, Health and Urban Development Department, Goa has appreciated the initiative and said that the government will try to integrate this initiative to National Health Mission in procurement of this Biodegradable product at State level. Ashok Kumar, Director, Municipal Administration and Mission Director, Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban said that he will introduce this as a model for training SHGs under National Urban Livelihood Mission so that they can also adopt this as a potential livelihood opportunity.
Challenges On The Road To Swachh India
Even though Jayashree Parwar has found a sustainable solution when it comes to Eco-Friendly sanitary napkins, but, the problem is its reach and acceptance. Highlighting this as one of the challenges, Jayashree Parwar added, it was not an easy beginning as marketing the product became difficult due to availability of similar non-bio degradable products in the market, which are heavily advertised through television media. When we went to market the product, we were told that no one will buy it. The need of the hour is awareness and education among the masses, not many of us sitting at homes are aware of the simple fact that we can cause a lot of harm to our planet just by using these conventional pads.
She also said the product has not been widely accepted by pharmacy stores in the state, that’s why we reach out in the market through means like fairs, cultural festivals and our local contacts.
This may be the beginning of a sanitary revolution, the need of the hour is a lot of awareness and as waste generators, we should become more aware of the different ways we can start tackling this humongous amount of waste effectively.