Indians just celebrated Holi, the festival of colours…. also a festival during which plenty of water is used and wasted. At GiveHer5, we also honoured World Water Day on March 22nd. Water is a resource we often take for granted and contribute massively to its wastage. Whether you admit it or not, you are (as are we) an active participant in water wastage, even if we don’t intend to be. Whether it is drinking water out of disposable plastic bottles, or enjoying a few extra minutes in the shower or being careless with discarding unsustainable materials like plastic, not realising that it all ends up on a massive landfill or dumped into the ocean. We are all guilty of these actions. This is why it is essential to retain a level of conscience and realise that each of these actions contributes to an already pretty serious problem. By being aware of these problems and taking micro-steps, no matter how small – we do stand a chance to stem these issues before it becomes too late.
What does water as a resource have to do with menstrual awareness, you ask? Well, the truth is a lot.
For good menstrual hygiene, a menstruator needs to have access to water. Unfortunately, there is no clean water or access bathrooms to facilitate good menstrual hygienic behaviour in many regions across India, especially in remote and rural areas. On the other end of the spectrum, you have people living in comfort in the big cities – completely reliant on pads that are primarily made of plastic. With improper disposal methods and a lack of awareness of what becomes of these pads after use, the environmental impact is increasingly detrimental.
A common line used about the urban attitude to the environment – the NIMBY syndrome, which stands for ‘Not In My Backyard’. Basically, all is good and well as long as it doesn’t concern us. There is great effort to maintain personal hygiene but not much cause for concern regarding public cleanliness. The same attitude applies to pads. We don’t think for a second how one menstrual pad contributes to pollution and environmental damage. In every menstrual cycle, we go through at least 20 pads, give or take. If just one person goes through 20 pads a month, that means in a year, we are looking at 240 pads. All this from just one person. Now picture every single menstruator in India, and we are looking at tons and tons of plastic waste.
Plastics emit toxins that are bad for the environment. Microplastics make their way into the food chain, which, in turn, is bad for all of us. Plenty of marine life get trapped or suffocate on ingesting plastic materials. It takes hundreds of years for plastics to break down.
If worry is beginning to set in, just visualising piles and piles of these plastics floating in the middle of the ocean, good. But do not stress too much – this is where you can take charge, change your behaviour and look into sustainable tools designed for menstruation. Several companies are developing products that are biodegradable, reusable or both. One only has to research online. At GiveHe5, we provide safe and reusable menstrual pads made from cloth, called Saafkins. You can help donate towards providing these to menstruators in rural areas having limited options for menstrual hygiene.
You can make changes on a personal level once you educate yourself on the existence of a problem and learn how you can be a part of a solution. Speaking to your friends and family about these issues creates more awareness and can lead to a chain reaction of changed behaviour. Try out sustainable products that have a smaller environmental impact, encourage those around you to do the same. Look to the advocates and leaders, listen to what they say. Be a leader and advocate yourself. You don’t need a big following or a mic to make a splash. Change begins with you, and others around you will be open to change when they see how it has positively impacted you.
On a personal level
On a state level , national level and world level.