Ok Man! Let’s talk about periods.

So, we are in the 21st century, where women are prospering everyday, women are inspiring everyday.

But even in this era, menstruation is talked about with hesitation or the conversations take place within closed door, like women to women talk, you see? From whom are we hiding this fact that periods exist? Children? Men? Isn’t it a natural  biological process? What’s with this shame that are we holding on to? Why is there a stigma around it? Let’s try to find its roots!

Remember lessons we were taught in primary school on body parts? How were we introduced to our bodies and organs? Head, face, neck, stomach, hands, legs and feet- that is it! Something was missing, wasn’t it? Something wasn’t right. We heard what our teachers said, assuming we will learn more as we get older. Did it really take place? Let’s find out.

Coming to the confused teenage days when we had a chapter on reproduction in biology and sex education. In biology, ‘that’ chapter was brushed without teaching. Funny, isn’t it? Same with sex education. Ask yourselves how many of you really got to know about reproductive organs and genital systems? How quickly our reproductive organs and genital systems got unnoticed and was given least importance; which gradually started getting rooted in to cultures and social norms; and finally became associated with stigma- especially when it is related to periods. Let’s see what the co-founder of The Red-cycle which is a volunteered program that conduct sessions on menstruation with teenagers between 15-18 years has to say, “In most cases teachers skip this portion, but we can’t simply blame the teacher for it, as students aren’t keen to know about the subject matter; but there are also situations where students bombard teachers with questions about the sexual and reproductive systems making them uncomfortable”. At the Red Cycle, awareness sessions are not conducted as women to women talk or behind the closed doors, on the contrary, these sessions are conducted out in open in the presence of both men and women. The amazing fact is that, session are not only taken by the female volunteers, but male volunteers also play an active role.

Motivated by Arjun’s work at the Red Cycle, I was curious to know what men at my workplace think about menstruation, having started my internship with Saral Designs, a social enterprise working in the menstrual health sector and these are the responses I received from my colleagues:

Well, I am quite happy that so many men are now talking about periods, working in women’s health start-ups and breaking the taboo. 21st century looks promising, but there is a long way to go! So, men! Let’s talk about periods.

Boosting conversations around menstruation, the Saral way!

There is more to Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day than just menstrual cycle- it is about creating awareness on menstruation, about access to safe hygiene products, access to toilets and disposal methods and in totality it is about everything that helps girls and women manage their periods better.

So why is MH day celebrated on 28th May? Well, that’s because a menstrual cycle is of 28 days and periods lasts for up to 5 days a month on an average. Thus, to celebrate MH Day we decided to boost conversations surrounding menstruation with our partners, experts in the menstrual hygiene space, distributors, NGOs and prospective collaborators at the Annual Open House and break the silence around menstruation. The event was held on 26th May 2018. We also took this opportunity to inaugurate our indigenously built Semi-Automatic Machine SWACHH  1.1 and showcase the world’s first fully Automatic compact sanitary napkin making machine SWACHH 3.0.

The event received a warm response from curious minds wanting to work in the health & sanitation sector. The attendees involved experts from across India from varied sectors like garment industry, development consultants, local entrepreneurs and professors. The guests showed interest in all the sessions that were hosted by vibrant members of the Saral team which included Suhani Mohan (Co-Founder) talking about the importance of menstrual hygiene day and our journey as a startup in this industry so far. Since a lot of participants were curious to know in depth about the pad making process, Suhani’s session was followed by Kartik Mehta’s (Co-Founder) taking the stage to explain the history of sanitary napkins and its process of manufacturing, along with the raw materials required to manufacture the pads. We organized a gallery walk for all our guests where we demonstrated and explained to them the pad making process through our semi-automatic and automatic machines.

We are happy to have received such a thunderous response from NGOs, entrepreneurs and corporates who are willing to create a positive impact in the menstrual hygiene space either via setting-up our machine, through awareness about MHM in different parts of the country or even through direct distribution of sanitary napkins at the last mile. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with these new partners and embarking on a new journey together.

Here are a few glimpses from our Annual Open House 2018 !!

One with all the guests who attended the Open House
Kartik Mehta and Suhani Mohan explaining the history of sanitary napkins
Demonstration of Active Ultra pads
Fun and interactive sessions
Guests viewing our automatic machine
Launching our semi-automatic machine – “Swachh 1.1”
Team Saral Designs after the success of the Annual Open House 2018

CSR Champions

Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. As per the government’s mandate, businesses with annual revenues of more than 10bn rupees (£105m) must give away 2% of their net profit to charity. Areas they can invest this money in include education, poverty, gender equality and hunger.

We at Saral Designs understand the importance of collaboration for the greater good. We believe in leveraging available resources and utilizing it for creating a lasting impact. In the last one year, to increase our reach and improve last mile access, we have partnered with over 5 companies working towards eliminating the problems around menstrual hygiene.

Distribution of Active Ultra pads in collaboration with Precision CamShafts

Our partnership includes conducting awareness about menstrual hygiene among women and girls across all age groups, social and economic backgrounds. The awareness program is focused towards the menstrual education of girls, educating them about the biology behind menstruation and best practices which need to be followed at the time of their menstrual cycle. To properly understand the need of each school or community we select to work in, we first conduct a pre-test to see how much the women know about menstruation and the conduct a post-test to analyze the impact of the awareness session conducted by us. After each session, we distribute to girls and women free packets of ‘Active Ultra’ sanitary napkins sufficient for one cycle. A typical MHM session conducted by us covers the following topics:

  • Menstruation and body anatomy
  • Puberty and changes in body
  • What is menstruation?
  • Learningmenstrual cycle
  • Sanitation, hygiene& products
  • Hygiene practices during periods
  • Track your periods & Myth-busting
  • Right disposal practices for used pads
Students explaining the reproductive system during a session in Ghatkopar, Mumbai

We recognize our limitations as a social enterprise and know how imperative it is to partner with local NGO’s and individuals for the smooth execution of the program. In the past two years, we have developed strong partnerships with over 25 such non-profit organizations having well-built networks in the most remote parts of the country.

MHM session conducted in collaboration with Saksham Foundation

In a recent survey conducted by us to track the increase in knowledge about menstruation, health benefits and usage of hygienic menstrual products in the schools we work with, we found the following:

  • 100% of the girls went back and discussed the awareness session with either their mothers, sisters or friends
  • 82% girls used Active Ultra pads that were given to them.
  • 97% of the users found the pad quality to be excellent/good
  • Teachers from the schools observed a drastic reduction in the number of girls taking half day/ full day leaves due to period emergencies.

So far, we have :

Our Reach

But our work does not end here! There is still a long way to go and we will continue to make sanitary napkins more accessible to women, create awareness around menstruation and ensure every woman has a healthy period!

Students from a school in Chembur, Mumbai post the session with Active Ultra pads