SAATHI- A New Alternative For Sanitary Napkins
Menstruation is something, which no woman can ignore, it’s a regular process. Women go through a lot in this phase and have to bear a lot of pain. John Guillebaud, a reproductive health professor at University College London, confirmed that menstrual cramps are ‘as bad as having a heart attack’. With unavoidable menstrual cramps, comes another problem – infections brought by periods. According to a research by Centers of Disease Control (CDC), 75% of women face Vaginal Yeast Infection at least once in their lifetime and 40-45% have two or more. While menstrual hygiene products remain uneconomical (even though it’s a basic need), 9 lakh tonnes of waste is produced every year solely by sanitary napkins. These sanitary pads are non- biodegradable and are dangerous for health too. They are not made of cotton purely. They are made of cellulose gel, which contains dioxin. Dioxin can cause ovarian cancer. They are made to absorb wetness, so they contain rayon, a synthetic fiber, which also has dioxin. A woman during her lifetime will produce about 23 kg of plastic from sanitary pads alone. In this situation, looking for other alternatives is very important. Sadly, Indian women still pay 12 % tax on these products where it is already in scarcity and such an aid must be sold without any added tax. Many women still use cloth, which is highly dangerous for the health because germs remain in the cloth after use and they multiply rapidly. This causes dangerous infections, which sometimes can be life threatening.
Looking at this condition, awareness was the need of the hour. So this situation, drove four youngsters in their 20’s to set up a camp in India and work towards a lasting solution – one that turned out to serve not only women, but the environment too.
SAATHI- THE ALTERNATIVE PAD SOLUTION
This Ahmedabad startup produces sanitary napkins by using banana tree fiber. The product has high absorption value and degrades within a period of six months. The natural fiber of banana plant has low density and appropriate stiffness. Its mechanical properties are high disposability and renewability. They can also be recycled. Banana fiber (a ligno-cellulosic fiber) is obtained from the pseudo-stem of banana plant (musa sepientum), which is a bast fiber with amazing mechanical properties. This approach is even farmer friendly as the sole input is generated from the waste of pseudo-stem of banana plant, which farmers don’t need. So it’s a two show hit! The startup named ‘SAATHI’ was founded in 2015, by four mechanical engineers from Harvard and MIT. The SAATHI team uses banana fiber instead of chlorine-bleached wood pulp or cotton.
“We evaluated the logic of making sanitary pads using freely available banana tree fibers as its core component,” says co-founder and CEO, Kristin Kagetsu.
In 2016, they launched their One Million Pads initiative, which aims to expand access to sanitary pads for women in rural Jharkhand by being partners with NGOs in these regions. Their aim is to educate rural women to use sanitary pads for which they also provide training sessions in the areas to teach women how to use it and why it is so important. To handle the economic issue, SAATHI sells its pads in rural areas at cost price and at sales price in urban area. It is distributed in biodegradable, organic and plastic free sacks in villages and in boxes in cities.
“The women in urban areas were excited to use SAATHI pads because they don’t contain chemicals or plastics and are environment-friendly. The users don’t get rashes or feel any irritation while using our product”, says the CTO (Chief Technology Officer).
They have bagged a number of laurels in three years since they started up, including winning the National Bio Entrepreneurship ompetition 2017, the Global Cleantech Innovation Program 2017, the Asia Social Innovation Award 2017, the 3M Young Innovators Challenge 2016 and the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition, 2014.
As the product contains no chemicals or bleach and any water consumed is recycled for banana plantation irrigation, it is very comfortable for women to wear and also serves the environment right!