Saukhyam Reusable Pads began as a research project of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. When Chancellor Amma announced the adoption of 101 villages all over the country in 2013 as part of the Amrita SeRVe (Self Reliant Village) project, interventions were begun in the areas of health, hygiene and many others.
When the National Family Health Survey – 4 (National Family Health Survey of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (NFHS)– 4, 2015-2016) revealed that only 48.2% girls and women aged 15-24 in rural areas used hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual periods as compared to 77.5% in urban India, efforts were begun to find a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution to this problem. Reusable pads made from cotton cloth and banana fiber that would last for 4-5 years were introduced. In December 2016, these pads won the Most Innovative Product Award from the National Institute of Rural Development in India.
Today women groups in the adopted villages in six states of India viz. Bihar, Odhisa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal make these pads. The project not only addresses the need for menstrual hygiene but has also become a source of income for many poor women in these villages.
The pads are marketed and distributed in both rural and urban areas. The value proposition for the rural customer seems to be slightly different from that of the typical urban consumer. The rural customer is motivated by economic reasons while the urban customer is motivated by environmental considerations.
Economic Advantage and Sustainability
A Saukhyam pad set lasts for 4-5 years and is available for less than ₹ 500. Those switching to reusable pads now no longer need to spend ₹ 100 (or more) on monthly disposable pad purchases.Most disposable pads are not biodegradable and will pollute the planet for hundreds of years after being thrown away.
Trees must be cut down in order to provide the cellulose fiber that is the absorbent material in most disposable pads used worldwide. Banana fiber, the absorbent in Saukhyam pads is obtained from agricultural waste. The banana tree is cut down after bearing fruit once and the fiber is extracted from the cut trees. No trees are destroyed in this case to obtain the cellulose fiber. India is the largest producer of bananas in the entire world.
The Saukhyam Reusable Pads project was lauded at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2018 in Poland for its sustainable financing mechanism. The project has received extensive guidance from Chancellor Amma. Speaking on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan to the Prime Minister of India ShriModi, Amma said, “It’s not enough to know about waste management. We also need to know how to stop producing waste. For example, the sanitary pads readily available in the market are not biodegradable and add to the waste in the country. Amma’s ashram has created ‘Saukhyam Pads,’ which are made from cotton and banana fibre. They can be reused and are also biodegradable. For women in the Amrita SeRVe villages, making these pads has also become a means to earn a living.”
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