Empowering women for a sustainable future: how one woman’s innovation could transform her entire village
September 2015, Dunda, India
It is estimated that only 8 to 12% of women in India use sanitary napkins. When women are able to gain access to such materials, they are expensive and not sustainable. Without sanitary napkins, girls are forced to miss school for several days each month, often leaving them academically behind their male classmates. This lack of access results in educational challenges as well as social ones: girls are embarrassed to leave the home or work without proper sanitary products.
Sucheta, a young woman from Dunda, India, has been working to solve this problem. With the tailoring guidance of our own Amrita University’s self-reliant village initiative, she began producing her own reusable cloth sanitary napkins. When Sucheta was in our headquarters Amritapuri in September 2015, she brought the napkins she had stitched to Amma. Amma offered her practical guidance, telling her to reduce the thickness and use material that washed easily.
Since then, Sucheta has continued to produce many sanitary napkins, and is empowering others by teaching others how. She now leads tailoring classes in Dunda, and her new cloth pads are even more effective after Amma’s feedback. Moving forward, our team will reach out to local schools and colleges to promote this simple and effective solution to a major societal and environmental problem.
An integral part of our philosophy is an emphasis on creating sustainable solutions that have the highest impact using the least resources. Reusable products such as these have the potential to reduce waste and cost for women across India. They also are much healthier for women, as cotton, used in most disposable products, uses many toxic chemicals and these materials are also bleached. These chemicals can stay inside the body for decades, leading to rashes, allergic reactions, and hormone disruption. Both the health of the environment, individual women and ultimately society at large are improved in the use of reusable products.
Sucheta’s story is a powerful example of the power of skill and vocational training for young women. Sucheta was not only inspired to increase her own income, but to use her tailoring skills to help her community. Through our emphasis on skill training, we hope to continue to empower young women to build stronger and more sustainable villages and communities.