Menses continues to be a taboo subject in many places. It can lead to feelings of shame and uncleanliness. The absence of dialogue around this natural process allows unhygienic practices to continue. GOONJ has been researching this issue in India for over 7 years. They have found that in the absence of a clean cloth, women will use the dirtiest rags. Because of the scarcity and lack of access to cloth, this rag may be shared among family members and some women will use the same cloth for up to a year. They found that a lack of appropriate or adequate sanitation facilities prevents girls form attending school while they are menstruating. They have also found that some women are reluctant to wash and dry their cloth rags in public. The cloth rag remain moist and encourages bacterial growth and subsequent infection.
GOONJ is an organization that is tackling the lack of access to clothing. They reclaim clothing, cleaning it for reuse or fashioning it into other products like school bags. GOONJ recognizes sanitary napkins as a vital piece of clothing. GOONJ aims to address this most basic need of women by turning old, recycled clothes into clean sanitary napkins; raise awareness about cloth napkins and hygiene though discussions and meetings in villages; promote discussion about menses and women’s health; and give training on the production of cloth napkins.
Additionally, GOONJ focuses on cloth napkins in particular to decrease the impact on the planet. The clothing for the napkins comes largely recycled or discarded from urban areas in India. The napkins are hand made without the aid of machinery. There is no reliance on non-biodegradable plastic products used in commercial sanitary pads.
-Operating in 10 states in India and with 42 other grassroots organizations
-More than 1 million napkins distributed in the last 2 years
-150,000 – 200,000 napkins produced each month
-Over 150 meetings in villages across the country
-13 organizations trained in replicating the napkin production as an employment generation activity
“…and the solution is an old cloth lying in your cupboard.” Anshu Gupta