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We cannot sacrifice quality while providing low cost sanitary napkins to rural women as that might ultimately hurt the cause of their menstrual hygiene.
I was 12 when puberty kicked in. Unlike many others, it was a smooth transition for me from childhood to adolescence sans stomach ache and cramps. But, very soon I realized menses don’t come to women at such cheap cost. I used to suffer back pain and have had terrible times due to Menorrhagia (Heavy bleeding) during the initial years. My understanding of these cycles, nature of procreation, and the importance of sacred blood was limited. The fundamentals of biological evolution didn’t dawn upon me immediately after adolescence. It took me years to connect the dots. I blatantly blame the society for making it a tabooed topic. No one ever educated me on this until one fine day it was sort of clearly discussed in the Zoology class during my 11th standard.
My tryst with Menorrhagia during teens was intolerable and often made me end up being petulant during those days. The days used to be dim, fatigued and wrecked. Travelling, important events were either planned after the first three days or before that. There were times when I skipped school/college primarily because of this. I have had days where I ended up staining clothes, bed sheets even after using the best sanitary pads available in the market. I kept trying new methods to relieve from this horror. I have tried cloth, various kinds of sanitary pads to shun the mess. With each passing cycle, the deducing pain, I found ways to deal it with elegance. However, the learning curve and acceptance wasn’t smooth.
From cursing all the Gods out there for the endurance to celebrating the 204th period, I have come a long way.
The experience I had using the low cost sanitary pads was nothing less than a disappointment rather a disaster. Each time I used the low cost/quality pad, I was forced to change in a span to 2-3 hours (sometimes lesser than that) which is nearly half the time I take to change when I use the cloth or high price pads. No, I am not endorsing the high priced sanitary napkins. Though I wouldn’t mind doing it for the comfort they have been offering me. The point I am trying to put across is of quality. The equation is simple here. It is a universal fact, “You pay high price to get the best quality”. For someone like me who can easily compromise on the quality and brand in general, sustainability is of high importance and necessary when it comes to sanitary pads. Moreover, who would peep into your panties to see the brands? Comfort factor and a smooth day matters.
Ever since the articles on low cost sanitary pads to rural women started spurting, I had tears of joy. Oh boy! Periods are going to be easier to deal with, for my tribe, more than ever before. I thought that was a marvel. Period. But, Alas! It didn’t take me much time to ponder on the quality of these pads. While all the headlines read low cost, none mentioned about the durability and the quality. My apprehensions have grown with time. I tried gathering information on these pads, read a couple of blogs, checked images, and to my utter dismay found out that they fail to serve the purpose. The size, shape, thickness, support systems (most of them aren’t manufactured with wings) gives a fair idea on how the inventors have been thoroughly focusing on creating a pad in low cost compromising the quality. These definitely fail to give a reassurance to a teen/woman suffering from Menorraghia, which is explicitly a common phenomenon. Honestly, I wouldn’t use even if they are supplied to me for free of cost, simply for the fear of staining or running into the washroom every 2 hours.
Today, a girl like me enjoying life in the urban setup with all the advanced facilities of transportation, washrooms, air conditioning and best sanitary pads/menstrual cups/tampons still encounters issues and strictly avoids using light colored clothes, physical activity and travelling during menstruation.
Then, how do the inventors/NGOs think our rural folks who travel kilometers on uneven roads to fetch water, walk to schools/colleges, and do physical activity in the fields manage their chums with these low quality pads?
How can we expect these women to go behind the bushes every few hours? (We can’t ignore the fact that most of them don’t use undergarments)
Where will the high school girls go to change the pad in the middle of their classes? (Most schools don’t even have toilets)?
When these pads don’t suit me, how will they suit the rural women?
Why do we often end up assuming things and make prototypes in our glass buildings?
How do we take their vaginas for granted when theirs are no different from ours?
The need is not just low cost pads but decent sustainable pads at low cost.
We shall be doing no good by forcing our sisters in the other parts of the country to use these pads because unfortunately, our vaginas don’t bleed as per our economic status.
They bleed heavy, thick clots too many times. We shall be pushing them into embarrassing moments of staining their clothes, changing pads, running behind the bushes and ultimately purchasing more number of low quality pads. Thus, eventually coercing them to reject pads embracing the age old methods. And, we might witness that spectacular failure if don’t change our approach.
P.S. When people are upgrading to menstrual cups, shouldn’t we think of directly introducing these rural sisters to cups instead of pads?
Image source: Pexels
First published here.