While sitting in the comfort of our homes, the idea of climate change, however real, seems distant. The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling with more frequent and disastrous cyclones, hurricanes, droughts, floods, bush fires, melting ice caps, etc. and this should awaken most non-believers and reawaken the believers.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken away the hustle and bustle from our lives for a bit and we have been confined to our homes. With most human activity restricted the skies got clearer, the air cleaner, the animals healthier and the water quality improved. However, it has also given rise to a rather scary revelation: our desire for convenience had blurred the line between our needs and wants.
While most of us struggle with striking the right balance between the two, it is safe to say that we are still better off than our esteemed policy makers. As the COVID-19 induced lockdown disrupted supply chains and imposed restriction on our own movement, getting hands on even essential items proved to be challenging and as if this in itself wasn’t enough, the Indian government failed to enlist menstrual products under essentials at first. After aggressive lobbying from activists, NGOs and menstrual products manufacturers, the authorities realized that “Periods don’t stop for Pandemics” and yet added only sanitary napkins to the list of essential items one week into the lockdown.
Most menstruating women/ girls in our country continue to use disposable sanitary pads and there are still some who have access to none of the products and resort to using unhygienic cloth pieces or even ash or leaves. There are menstruators who have never given a second thought to the product they are using, its impact after disposal or even on their own bodies. I personally know urban women who have heard about sustainable menstrual products but have not tried them owing to either unavailability (not available at every pharmacist or general store) or upfront cost.
I have also found women who cite going to work as an ‘excuse’ for trying new products. They are used to and comfortable with their disposable pads. While trying a new menstrual product, one is bound to have apprehensions about how to use the product, for how long to use it, and how to avoid leakage. Then there are issues on safe disposal. In case of menstrual cups, one needs clean water to wash and reinsert the cup. Figuring these aspects out in their workplace can be daunting for sure. Given the fact that COVID-19 will keep a vast majority of us indoors in these unprecedented times, most of us will also have a 24/7 access to our own bathrooms. This creates a unique opportunity (especially for working women) to try menstrual cups or reusable cloth pads and also to understand our flow cycles a lot better. Once we get comfortable with using them inside our homes, the more manageable it will become to change or clean them elsewhere.
So, why not take this Work From Home period as an opportunity to try a sustainable menstrual product, from the comfort of your homes! In fact, many women have done just this, and reusable menstrual products have seen a boost in sales these past couple of months. Trying something different the first time from the comfort of their homes, all this time being sustainability oriented and with the side benefit of saving money.
Also, the possible shortage of sanitary pads in stores during this pandemic (and any disaster in future) is an important factor to consider. At times like these, we realize the value of reusable products such as the menstrual cup and reusable cloth pads; products that don’t need to be bought monthly and are environmentally sustainable along with being economically viable. It would be a good time to reiterate that small lifestyle changes like these go a long way in adopting a sustainable lifestyle that is conducive to the environment.
However, a lot still needs to be done in order to spread awareness be it through one to one counselling, seminars, group discussions, social media platforms, etc. to bust myths and to roll out positive and accurate information regarding menstruation. Gender inequality, poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions continue to prevail and make periods and menstruators even more vulnerable.
Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is celebrated on 28th of May every year has now stretched to a week-long event thanks to social media. The webinars on the topic this year were widely attended. Since people were home and didn’t physically need to be present to be parts of those discussions, we were able to participate in various conversations happening across the globe. Many pages and individuals even discussed menstruation, menstrual products and different challenges on Instagram, helping reach more people and opening conversations among a larger audience.
So, staying at home is saving us a lot of time that we were actually spending in getting ready to step out, then actually travel, travel back and rejuvenate from this exercise. With all this time saved, we could try something new or read something more to get better informed about issues that are dear to us and be better and more confident climate activists!!
- Sugandha Chandra