Bhopal: While sanitary pads have become the instant answer to menstrual hygiene, women members of NH 12 Creative Women’s Club, Bhopal, have taken a different path. Instead of pads, it distributes pieces of clean cotton cloth to women residing in the slum areas for use during menstruation.
“It is a myth that only pads are hygienic and safe. A clean piece of cotton cloth is as good provided it is not reused,” club president Anshu Gupta told Free Press.
She said the decision to provide them clean pieces of cloth instead of pads was taken because elderly women avoid it. “Even if we give them pads, they will not use them. And even if they do, they will feel uncomfortable,” said Gupta who was music and dance teacher in Kendriya Vidyalaya before taking up social service fulltime.
The club has 2,500 members who collect clean cotton clothes – bed-sheets or saris – and distribute among the women in slums. “We ask women to use them only once. We tell them to either burn or dispose of after wrapping them in a piece of paper and putting a red cross on it,” she said. She said that club has consulted doctors including a gynaecologist who is a club’s member in this regard. They all said that cotton cloth is safe. The only difference is that cloth cannot absorb blood as much as a pad can for long time.
Gupta decided to work in this field in 2016 when she found that women in slums re-use dirty pieces of cloth, leaves and ash during periods. “I was shocked to discover that in some parts of Betul district, menstruating women eat a certain kind of fruit to reduce bleeding,” she said.
The club has a different approach when it comes to school-going girls. “We give sanitary pads to them as they easily adopt it,” she remarked. Pads are distributed free of cost. They come as donations from club members and other people. Club, which doesn’t seek government help, also works to create awareness about how to maintain menstrual hygiene. Gupta believes that installing sanitary pad vending machines at schools in rural areas will improve menstrual hygiene but it should not cost more than Rs 1 per pad.