Bad Experience With Sanitary Napkins Prompted Her To Make Eco-Friendly, Reusable & Cost-Effective Cloth Pads

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“When I switched to cloth pads about four years ago, I felt the difference in comfort and usability. However, I was hesitant to discuss this with my family and friends, for fear of being mocked at, as I was reverting to a traditional method of using cloth during periods,” shares Abhirami Prakash.

“But once I opened up about my choice, I received unprecedented support from everyone, as all of them were facing troubles with commercial pads. They were unaware of any viable alternative,” she adds.

To make more women understand the benefits of cloth pads, Abhirami Prakash started Pirai in July 2018, which manufactures high-quality, handmade and cost-effective cloth pads.

Abhirami with Pirai products.
Abhirami with Pirai products.

Speaking to Efforts For Good, she shares the adverse implications of regular sanitary napkins and explains why sustainable menstruation is the need of the hour.

Advocating menstrual education

The news of a 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu committing suicide after being period-shamed in school shook Abhirami Prakash. “On her suicide note, she left the question about what her fault was to deserve such a treatment. Shocked as I was, I resolved to generate menstrual awareness among all women to uproot the age-old taboos and irrelevant stigma around it,” says Abhirami Prakash.

Abhirami, spreading menstrual awareness among young girls
Abhirami, spreading menstrual awareness among young girls

Working as a naturopathy physician in a multi-speciality hospital, Prakash frequently conducted cervical and breast cancer awareness campaigns for rural women and young girls. She discovered that the women in remote villages had little idea about normal menstruation. “I understood that before talking about diseases, women must be educated about the normal bodily processes, physical and emotional changes that a woman undergoes throughout her cycle,” she explains.

Switching to cloth pads

In Kerala, the garbage collectors will inquire if your trash contains disposed sanitary napkins. If yes, they will inevitably refuse to carry it. Every month, those few days might pose an added hassle for you to find newer ways of disposing used pads. Be it looking for dump yards everywhere or burning the pads, only to create a foul-smelling vortex of smoke that clouds your dignity as a woman.

Cloth pads by Pirai are well-crafted and aesthetically pleasing
Cloth pads by Pirai are well-crafted and aesthetically pleasing

“Even if we bury them in some corner of our own yard, it takes around 500 to 800 years for these commercial pads to decompose. Rainwater seeps through them and pollutes the groundwater. Very few of us are aware of this,” she says.

While organising widespread campaigns in schools and rural belts, Prakash unearthed many lesser-known facts about the regular pads we all are accustomed to using. “Aside from my unpleasant personal experience with commercial napkins, I learnt that a woman produces around 130 kg of menstrual waste in her lifetime, most of which is as non-biodegradable as plastic. With more and more chemicals being added to commercial sanitary napkins, it is causing more harm to the reproductive organs than help,” explains Prakash.

The darker side of the immaculate white pads

The bright white pad is actually bleached with dioxin, a highly toxic environmentally persistent pollutant. Studies have revealed that dioxin alters the healthy microflora and pH balance of the vagina, and gives rise to abdominal pain, bloating, hormonal imbalance and even endometriosis in the long run.

Why cloth pads are better

At Pirai, clean cotton flannels are manually panelled together to make cloth pads in three different shapes, lengths and textures – as per the flow level of the user on respective days of the period. Completely free from chemicals, the pads contain the underlining of biodegradable polyurethane which makes it leak-proof. Customised with buttons and wings, Pirai cloth pads feel more comfortable than regular pads, as Prakash assures.

A cloth pad can be easily washed and reused for up to two years. Not only this, a set of cloth pads for 2 years is sold at around 1200 rupees at Pirai; while the average expense for regular sanitary napkins would amount to minimum 5000 rupees in two years.

Addressing the queries and misconceptions about cloth pads

“The first time I spoke about cloth pads at a rural camp, women were bombarding me with questions. Most of them thought cloth pads would be as unhygienic as the dirty rags they initially used,’’ she shares.
“Our ingrained attitude makes us think menstrual blood is impure. I always emphasise to everyone how period blood is just another bodily fluid like saliva, mucus or tear. If you feel period blood is dirty just because it comes out of the vagina, do you consider a newborn baby impure as well?”, asks Prakash.

All about Pirai cloth pads

Unlike the popular notion, washing cloth pads is quite hassle-free. “Soak the used pad in soap water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and dry in sunlight. Never use hot water though,” Prakash elaborates.

How women received the cloth pads

Sustainable menstruation in India is yet to be popularised through mass media. Abhirami Prakash encourages women of all ages to use cloth pads. In her experience, the young girls were very receptive and even urged their mothers to turn towards cloth pads. For menopausal women as well, cloth pads proved to be a boon of comfort as they face unpredictable bleeding and need to use pads almost all the time.

“However, the young women between 25 to 35 years are quite reluctant to use cloth pads as they doubt the effectiveness, suited to their busy lifestyle. I still have a long way to go to convince them,” shares Prakash.

The challenges along the way

Finding the right material to compete with commercial sanitary napkins happened to be the primary challenge for Abhirami Prakash. After successfully achieving the right texture, Abhirami decided to employ local women for making these pads instead of professional tailors. “My main motive was to spread more awareness. Training unskilled workers to perfect the art and science of a cloth pad was another major challenge for me,” she adds.

The workers at Pirai with their children

Message for everyone

Menstrual awareness is the first and last takeaway of every discussion on periods. “We have to dissolve the stigma around a normal biological process, and women cannot do it alone. The opposite gender often shies away from this topic considering it solely women-centric. It’s not. Logical-minded men have to come forward to encourage more awareness,” insists Abhirami Prakash.

For more information kindly write to [email protected] or call 9791501445

Also Read: Fire & Termite-Resistant Pallets From Coconut Husk That Save 200 Million Trees A Year

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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