I had my periods when I was nine, and used mostly disposable sanitary pads and occasionally, homemade cloth pads. My mom experimented and introduced me to tampons when I was in Grade 9 and the freedom was mindblowing! Can’t thank her enough.
I became a responsible waste management volunteer in 2011 and it was a full year before I discovered a menstrual cup! Between Grade 9 and 2011, I travelled to more than 30 countries and even lived in the US for three years. I feel menstrual cups are the best kept secret of all times!
The system didn’t expose me to the option of menstrual cups, and for years I used uncomfortable sanitary pads and then tampons that are responsible for blockages in our sewage systems.
Traditional cloth pads are actually more hygienic than disposable sanitary pads – for users as well as for the environment. They are as comfortable as disposables ones. Given that urban households have access to washing machines, maintaining cloth pads is not too much of additional work either. There are many companies that make new age cloth pads – Uger, Hygiene & You, Shomata, Ecofemme and others.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product which is usually made of medical grade silicone, shaped like a bell and is flexible. It is worn inside the body during menstruation to catch the menstrual fluid, much like tampons. Unlike tampons, however, one doesn’t have to dispose of them, but merely flush the content, wash and reuse it. After use, sterilise it and store it, and re-sterilise and use during the next period.
There are several brands of cups available in the Indian market, both from domestic as well as international sellers. StoneSoup Wings, Shecup, MeLuna, Mooncup, Diva cup and others. You can read more about cups and how to select the right one for you in the earlier articles, here and here.
So then, why are menstrual cups such a closely-guarded secret?
Menstrual cups are a huge big step forward. Better on four counts – better for health, better for the pocket, better for convenience and better for the environment. They have been in use since 1937, and have seen many innovations too. However, we don’t see any television commercials or other forms of advertisements for cups. Why?
We can only guess the reasons and they are more likely to be purely commercial rather than anything else. When you buy disposable sanitary pads or tampons, you need the products every cycle. The more you buy, the more profits the company makes, and the more it can spend on advertisement.
A sanitary pad company can sell its product once through “life skills” classes in school and can be assured of a customer for the next 30 years. In a lifetime, a woman will spend more than Rs 1 lakh on disposable sanitary pads. Unfortunately each one of those pads will either live in someone’s neighbourhood for the next 500 years or will go up in air mixing cancer-causing dioxins into it!
With a menstrual cup, you have to sell to a new customer all the time. So it’s hard to make money all the time by selling cups, or to have a flourishing business. So you don’t see much advertising around menstrual cups. But, a woman will only spend an approximate Rs 800-2500 (going by current rates) on her menstrual product over years.
So what can you do? Simple: change the equation. Stand up to get your clean air back! Find out if you want to be on the side of David, or Goliath. Spread the word. Let women know that sustainable options exist. Ask your pharmacist and grocery store if they have a menstrual cup or cloth sanitary pad.
Ask repeatedly – if enough women ask for it, products will start appearing on the shelves. Speak to your organic store vendor about these products. Organise a sustainable menstruation presentation in your community and in your office. Talk about it – the more you talk, the more awareness you will spread!
We at Stonesoup created Wings menstrual cups as we felt that this market was crying for innovation and someone to go out there and and invest in sales and marketing so products like these are available on store shelves. We spent 18 months before that, doing sessions, answering hundreds of calls, helping new users and chasing various existing players to do this, but most were happy enough with the current status! They were scared of the sanitary napkin companies and didn’t want to take them on.
At Stonesoup.in, we were a bunch of waste activists determined to clean up the waste and we decided that if it meant shaking a Goliath, so be it. Interestingly enough, that has been the story of people behind UK-based Mooncup or the The Keeper too. A bunch of women bothered by the trash found that solutions exist, but needed people with passion to revive it!
Tired of drains blocks due to flushed sanitary pads or of pads dropped in innacessible shafts?Invite us and we will come and do a free awareness session. We are all users of sustainable options, and will bring samples of various brands of cups and cloth pads. All you have to lose is clogged drains or the bloody pads in your garbage bins. Your househelp will thank you for it. Your municipality workers will be grateful too. And you can go real ‘care-free’, swimming or running during your periods! No more whispers when we can talk.
This was first published on Citizen Matters, an online magazine published with the support of Oorvani Foundation. The original article can be viewed here http://citizenmatters.in/why-you-should-speak-out-loud-for-menstrual-cups-3700