WaterAid India calls for ‘Informed Menstrual Product Choice’ this Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28 May 2019

27 May 2019
Menstrual Hygiene Day
Image: WaterAid/Meenal Upreti

How aware and informed are women and girls regarding menstrual products? 
Are there alternate options available other than just sanitary pads?
What about sustainability?

Launched ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day this year, WaterAid India’s brief report ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management: Informed Product Choice and Disposal’ aims to create awareness regarding the menstrual product landscape in India for women and girls to start making an informed choice as per their needs. 

It highlights a three-way comparative analysis on menstrual products, including Disposable Pads, Reusable Pads and Menstrual Cups on various parameters including sustainability and the waste load of each product category. The comparative analysis shows that a sanitary pads user uses an average 6,120 disposable pads in her lifetime compared to a cloth pad user (136 reusable cloth pads) and a menstrual cup user (only 7 reusable menstrual cups over her lifetime). 

The use of menstrual hygiene products, specifically disposable sanitary pads, has increased significantly over the past 10 years. As per the National Family and Health Survey 4 (2015-16), 48% of young women aged 15-24 years have used sanitary pads in rural India alone. Despite the presence of a wide product landscape, disposable sanitary pads have become the most popular choice.

Awareness generation on menstrual hygiene management has typically focused on use of just sanitary pads. A vast majority of products reaching women and girls through government and large manufacturers are made primarily of non-compostable materials – materials that take hundreds of years to degrade. Apart from the amount of waste generated, when women and girls do not have easy access to disposal options, they tend to wear a pad for much longer than they should, putting them at risk for unnecessary and avoidable discomfort and health issues.

Largely, menstrual hygiene products, their disposal and appropriate waste management solutions are addressed in silo. However, the choice of products and their waste management solutions are deeply intertwined.

Of 336 million women and girls experiencing menstruation in India, it can be estimated that approximately 121 million women and girls are currently using locally or commercially produced disposable sanitary napkins . Imagine the size of garbage dump created by 21,780 million  disposable pads every year.  

Menstrual hygiene interventions in India should build awareness on sustainable menstrual hygiene practices. This will have implications for health of users, safety and dignity of sanitation workers and the environment.

Arundati Muralidharan, Manager-Policy at WaterAid India said:

“The menstrual health and hygiene landscape in India has evolved, with more product categories available than ever before. At this critical juncture, the conceptualisation and practice of informed product choice in menstrual hygiene programs and policy is imperative. Informed product choice enables girls and women to choose a safe menstrual hygiene product according to her needs and comfort, her ability to pay, and the context in which she lives and experiences menstruation.”  

This Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), WaterAid India calls for ‘Informed Product Choice’, a woman or girl’s ability to choose a menstrual hygiene product drawing upon comprehensive and unbiased information on the product range, including their relative benefits and disadvantages, so that it meets their personal, reproductive health and socio-economic needs and realities.

  • While selecting and using products
    • Identify menstrual hygiene products available in the market and look for their quality certification
    • Choose appropriate menstrual hygiene product depending on your need, comfort, availability, cost, ease of disposal and environmental implications
    • Try different products and select what suits you best
    • Try a mixed-use approach for comfort and to minimise waste
    • Think sustainability
  • When disposing products
    • Wrap disposable pads or tampons in paper before disposing
    • Try to segregate menstrual waste from other household waste, and encourage collection of segregated waste. Do not flush used products down the toilet, burn them in the open or bury shallow pits
  • Demand the following from manufacturers
    • Innovate to make wider range of safe, hygienic and sustainable products which are easily available
    • Invest in and carry out research and development for products that are safe and have the least environmental impact
    • Support informed product choice
  • Demand the following from policy makers
    • Spread education/ awareness on menstrual hygiene management with information on the complete basket of products available
    • Facilitate user choice by making different categories of products available, accessible and affordable to women and girls

The country is in a dire need for menstrual hygiene solutions that minimise health risks for women and girls and allow us to deal with all menstrual waste effectively.

Informed & Sustainable Menstrual Product Choice = Hygienic + Comfortable + Affordable + Environment Friendly  


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Notes for Editors

WaterAid is an international not-for-profit, determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. Only by tackling these three essentials, in ways that last, can people change their lives for good. Working in India since 1986, WaterAid has successfully implemented water, sanitation, and hygiene projects, extending benefits to some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities across 13 of India’s 29 States. For more information, visit www.wateraidIndia.in, follow @WaterAidIndia on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook.