Dhanya Indraghanti, a student of Class 11 from Andhra Pradesh shares how using sanitary napkins made of cloth made her feel empowered and helped her contribute towards protecting the environment as well.
The idea of using cloth pads isn’t something new. Such pads have existed for ages now, but girls of my generation have barely heard of them in passing. I knew nothing about sanitary napkins made of cloth till the end of Class 9 when a teacher talked to me and my peers. I was fascinated by the concept and resolved that I would find cloth pads during my holidays from boarding school.
Meanwhile, my sister had an epiphany too. She realised that the plastic used for making disposable sanitary napkins ends up in landfills and takes over 700 years for decomposing. Since we were based in Riyadh at the time, buying EcoFemme or Uger cloth pads was not an option. So we decided to make our own pads.
My mother, who can sew almost anything, made the first pad from an old cotton skirt of mine. The soaking layers were cut out from an old pair of pyjamas, with a backing of velour.
It simply blew my mind! It was softer than the disposable pads I used, and it made me feel empowered. For once I knew how many risks I was eliminating by switching from those chemical-laden, plastic-y pads.
It was a different story back at school after the summer. I felt embarrassed to wash the pads and dry them out in the sun, lest my roommates make fun of me. They were grossed out by cloth pads because the blood had to be washed off. They continually complained about water shortage and suggested that I wasn’t concerned enough about our environment. These remarks really affected me, and I went back to using the disposable pads. But I made sure that I was on track at the end of the four-month-long term.
This experience made me realise that many women all over the world live with the constant fear of people judging them for their basic biological needs – so much so that there are over 3,000 euphemisms for the word menstruation. Women live their lives hiding from their own bodies.
The experience has broadened my mind. I want to convince other girls and women to switch to a more ecological and sustainable way of using sanitary napkins. I want to teach people to sew their own cloth pads.
This school year I plan to conduct workshops for girls at my school, as well as in the villages around us so that everyone can learn how to sew their sanitary napkins.
These pads can easily be made at home. Some cotton cloth, a needle and some thread are all that you require. Draw the template of a pad that fits you well and use it to cut a piece of cloth. The backing of the pad can be cut out of velour, but the same cotton piece can also be used if velour is not available. Using another material, preferably towelling, make a strip to soak the blood. The width and the length of the towelling material may vary, depending on the flow. It is stitched onto the front cotton piece. Zigzag stitching helps keep the inner soaking layer from moving. The back and front are stitched together and two snap fasteners are sewed. All the stitching is done on the wrong side of the cloth. Pre-wash and the pad is ready to use.
The beauty of the cloth pad lies in its versatility. It allows room for experimentation, so one can choose whichever size is required. Depending on one’s flow, the soaking towel’s length can be increased or decreased. Maintenance of the pads isn’t a problem. A single pad takes no longer than ten minutes to soak in water and ten to wash.
Knowledge about cloth pads is not something novel. My grandmother had it at her fingertips, and her grandmother before her. So why not us? We need to embrace this idea and spread it to all corners of the world. We need to see that every girl and every woman benefits from it.