Menstrual products and rural Indian womenAs an organization working on menstrual health, we do not promote, sell or help distribute any menstrual product. Over the years, others working on this issue have often asked us about what products would be suitable for the rural Indian women. So, here is our take on what one needs to keep in mind while considering products for women and girls in rural India. This information is based on our extensive travels, survey and conversations with at least 15,000 girls and women across 8 States in India.
- Cloth used for absorbing menstrual flow is the product that majority of rural girls and women prefer. Note that we say prefer for very specific reasons. Across India, among the thousands of women we surveyed and interacted with, majority of them use cloth because they prefer it. The reasons have little to do with affordability or accessibility to other products. Cloth users feel that it is more comfortable when compared to a sanitary napkin. Unlike sanitary napkins, most women are very familiar with cloth and change it more frequently than they would a sanitary napkin, resulting in better hygiene. Besides, in humid regions of the country, sanitary napkins crumble easily and hence a cotton cloth is preferred. Several women also expressed environmental concerns on disposing sanitary napkins in their villages and therefore preferred reusable cloth. In some villages in Karnataka, women told us that they can now purchase a red cloth called “Date Batte” (Date refers to periods, and Batte means cloth) from the grocery shops. This is a soft cloth, quite suitable for menstrual blood absorption.
- In recent years, some organizations have begun selling / distributing cloth pads. These cloth pads are designed to resemble sanitary napkins and yet be reusable for environmental reasons.
Bureau of India Standards for Sanitary Napkins is.5405.1980