Recently, GiveHer5 participated in a webinar, where the focus of discussion was Standards for Reusable Sanitary Pads. The panel of speakers included Sophia Grinvalds (AFRIpads), Torben Holm Larsen (RealRelief), Audrey Anderson Duckett (Be Girl), Ina Jurga (International Coordinator MH Day/ WASH United) and Shivani Swamy (Livinguard).
Some of the key topics covered in this webinar were:
– Overview Of Reusables.
– Standardization Of Parameters
– Existing Standards Landscape
– Gaps and Challenges.
Why are product standards so important? Because when there is an absence of product standards, the manufacturers won’t be held accountable for the quality of the product. Retailers, NGOs and distributors will be able to sell the product irrespective of the quality, performance and durability. The government and regulatory bodies will have minimal frameworks to inspect, certify and enforce quality of menstrual hygiene products on the market. The consumers and beneficiaries will have inadequate protections and assurances about the quality, safety and function of the products they use.
GiveHer5’s Shivani Swamy (representing Livinguard), contributed to the discussions. Here is what she had to say:
All manufacturers have a responsibility to test the product up to a certain level, and that’s how the product needs to be when bought by the consumer. Everything that happens after that is the responsibility of the consumer, so the manufacturers should be giving out leaflets with information on how to use their product or have them written clearly on the product box.
At Livinguard, we have been working on Saafkins as a brand for a few years now, and when started out, there were no standards in India that looked at reusable sanitary napkins. So we spoke to experts in textiles, we looked at other standards out there for reusable products, and we tried to create a list of what tests we thought were applicable. It just so happens that those are precisely the same tests that are now in the Indian draft standards that we’re looking at.
There are certain things to keep in mind when making these reusable products.
What textile are you using? Where did you source it from? What is the material safety of the dyestuffs used on the product? Because at the end of the day, all of this will affect skin sensitisation.
There’s again a lot of questions on whether the existing protocols for skin safety cytotoxicity are as effective as they should be, but there has to be some lowest common denominator with which we have to look at product safety.
What are the regulatory requirements? – I know that this is something that is a RealRelief and Livinguard has to look at really carefully because we have antimicrobial treatments on our products. Are the treatments you use actually safe for skin contact?
Within each country there are different regulatory requirements so are we actually upholding those regulatory needs? What about the dyes or treatments for say quick-drying – are they leaking from the product after every wash? This begs the question do we test a product just one time or do we create a washing protocol and repeat the test for the number of times we claim that the product can be used for?
With Saafkins, that is something we did do, where we said if we are going to tell people that it can be used for one year, which is about 60 to 70 washes, then have we tested that its absorbency and antimicrobial efficacy is all maintained for this period of time. Then we have to make sure that whatever the wash protocol is that we are suggesting to the end-user is the wash protocol that is used for the actual product.
As Torben said, there could be a huge requirement for having a drying test but then how do you control the humidity and the temperature to make sure that a pad that dries in India in say 15 minutes or one day will take the same amount of time to dry in Tanzania or another geography. So we are trying to come down to what the bare minimum is that we need to test for becomes important.
I cannot stress enough that I agree with Torben when he says that if you’re making a claim on your product, then it needs to be verified with some sort of test. We are seeing this more and more in India, I’m not too sure what the case is in Africa, but people are claiming to be using bamboo to be anti-microbial, or they are using certain raw materials claiming to be a 100% biodegradable or compostable. These are all claims that are extremely strong consumer claims, and when a consumer sees that, they take it at face value. But has this been verified by anybody? Is it being checked and if it turns out these claims are not true, is anybody stopping the company from making claims in the open market?
We are seeing so many of these small scale enterprises making ads, and then the question becomes do they really need to go for the same standard approval or can there be a lower-end version of that. It is a question, and it’s a little tough, and there has been a lot of back and forth on the panel we have in India creating the standard, but it is an effort we are making now to go towards that.
I have just one last point on the question of design. I agree I don’t think that the design should be something we have very formalised in our standards because this kind of stands in the way of innovation. If companies don’t think they can design new shapes and new product types to deal with something because it wouldn’t get approval within the standard or wouldn’t fall under the purview of the standard that could actually stop them from coming up with a solution that could do a lot better than any of the solutions that we have out there right now. So we need to make it conducive for people to innovate.
Click here or press play below watch this very informative and educational webinar.