Story of Giocare Reusable Cloth Pads
Gramalaya, a 32-year-old NGO, Approved by ministry of drinking water and sanitation as a key resource centre , has worked with adolescent girls in schools of Tamilnadu and Puducherry under the CSR Initiatives of Corporates.
Gramalaya, from the CSR funds of corporates constructs SMART Toilets in individual households and toilet complexes at schools and provide hygiene education to the beneficiaries. So the usage and maintenance will be ensured. In most of the schools, a particular behavior was discovered among adolescent girls. They won’t use the school toilets and sanitary complexes because most of the school toilets were not in usable conditions. And the rate of absenteeism is also high in schools and also resulted in school drop outs.
When Gramalaya analyzed the situation, it was found that
“The school toilets were dirty,
There were insects and rodents inside the sanitary complexes,
The outlet pipes were blocked,
There was no privacy for the girl students to change the sanitary napkins,
There was no proper way to dispose the soiled sanitary napkins and the
Incinerators installed in the toilet complex were not working in most of the schools,
The sanitary napkins are just kept in the windows of toilets or thrown away in the corner of the toilets in the absence of dustbin to dispose the soiled pads.
Snakes were roaming, near the thrown away sanitary napkins.
There was a bad odor in the place where the napkins were disposed”.
After listening to the grievances of the students, Gramalaya tried to educate girls about Menstrual Hygiene Management. Still, there is no change among girls’ behavior with respect to the usage and disposal of sanitary napkins.
A discussion with adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene issues revealed the myths and misconceptions, taboos and superstitious belief among adolescent girls.
“During the days of menstruation, girls feel so tired because of frequently changing pads. They should change the pads between every 4 – 6 hrs. If they didn’t change, the blood will leak out of the pad to their dresses. They will feel shy and ashamed about that.
Moreover, they will suffer with health issues like rashes, allergies, infections, itching, irritation, Urinary Tract Infection and Reproductive Tract Infection.
In rural areas, they burn or bury the used pads, as it is not allowed inside the home. If they burn the pad, it will release toxins and affect the environment as well as the health of mankind. If they bury, it will remain in the earth at least for 500 – 800 years, it won’t decompose that easily (a woman’s used sanitary napkin stays in the earth even after the death of the woman).
The single-use sanitary napkins are in fact expensive, that not everyone can afford it. So some women use rugs, wood dust, ash, sand or whatever they have to absorb the menstrual blood. Some women will just let the blood to flow, they won’t use anything to absorb during menstruation
Women who are using the cloths for menstruation, after washing the used cloth they just hide it from men’s view and dry in the shadow of the roof or some dark place, which will conducive for bacteria to breed”.
Single use sanitary napkins are considered as Bio-medical waste and it is harmful to burn that may lead to cancer and other severe health issues if we breathe that toxin filled air. Thrown away pads can end up in rivers, streams and even ocean. Productions of sanitary napkins are carcinogenic and can leak out into the atmosphere. The process of manufacturing these disposables also pollutes our waterways, air and animal habitats.
At this time, our founder and CEO of Gramalaya Mr.S.Damodaran, thought about making an eco-friendly reusable cloth pad.
A senior level team from Gramalaya with years of experience, started to study about reusable cloth pads from various sources of information.
In these 4 years the team from Gramalaya strived hard to find the perfect shape, size, color, good absorbing capacity of the cloth pads, marketing and branding techniques. In addition to the cloth pads designing, for breaking the myths and misconceptions about menstruation, information, education and communication materials (IEC) were prepared under the guidance of Mr.S.Damodaran.
Over 300 staff of Gramalaya was involved in the process of product testing and improvement. The team of Gramalaya found a remarkable reflection on the health and behavior of the people who tested and gave their feedback.
After 4 hard years of research and development, they came up with “Feelfree Reusable Cloth Pads” (Feelfree reusable cloth pads now became Giocare reusable cloth pads. An Initiative of Gramalaya, the cloth pads are being manufactured and marketed by GREAT Pvt Ltd.,) which got a significant response from adolescent girls and women across the states of Tamilnadu and Puducherry. Currently, 1,00,000 plus women and adolescent girls are using Giocare Reusable Cloth Pads.
Years ago, before the introduction of sanitary napkins, women used only clothes for absorption. They didn’t have any health issues like we have now.
Now we are going back to the tradition but with a twist. The movement of menstrual hygiene management is getting stronger. There are voices rising from the many parts of the world.
Adolescent girls and women after proper education about Menstrual Hygiene Management and benefits of cloth pads, they started accepting the cloth pads. After the introduction of cloth pads, the attendance rate in the school increased and the perception of menstruation was changed among adolescent girls.
ATK Nagar of Pudukottai District was declared as India’s first village where 100% of the menstruating women use cloth pads with the support of Gramalaya and Giocare.
Gramalaya has also appointed 3 brand ambassadors for Menstrual Hygiene Management program of Gramalaya in the year of 2019 to spread the message of Menstrual Hygiene Management and promotion of reusable cloth pads.
Gramalaya also conducted India’s first of Menstrual Hygiene Management Summit, in New Delhi (2019), where 180 plus delegates including 46 speakers and other stakeholders and supporters of Menstrual Hygiene Management Movement participated.
Gramalaya, the pioneer of MHM Movement in India now became the role model for various NGO’s and organizations supporting the Menstrual Hygiene Management Movement.