In India, whenever a girl menstruates, she is very often shamed and isolated until her period is over. In more traditional environments, anything she touches becomes unclean, so often these girls and women will spend several days isolated in a corner of their homes or in a separate hut. Many of the girls who are fortunate to be in school will skip classes until they are no longer menstruating. Buying pads is a shameful, secretive process. Thus, girls’ access to education and social development is greatly affected.
Not only are periods in India a gender equality issues, but they are also an environmental one. With waste very often being thrown into the street or into the water system, feminine products create a large amount of waste that didn’t exist in India when all they used were scraps of saris. Not to mention that the population of India is growing exponentially every single day.
A third major problem for Indian women living in marginalized communities, such as in many parts of Kolkata, is that they cannot find fair wages and treatment in their work. This is why many women, especially those without formal education, turn to the sex trade, not seeing any alternatives for gainful employment.
Enter Shomota, which strives to address all three of these issues for women in India. I was fortunate to have been introduced to this social enterprise at a visit to their factory in Kolkata today. Shomota which means “equality” in the Bengali language used in this part of India, makes lovely reusable cloth menstrual pads out of Indian fabric and cotton lining. The proceeds from each pad go to three areas. First, they help subsidize the cost of the pads so that those living in marginalized communities can purchase them at a reduced price. Second, it supports programs to educate women both in colleges and in community centers in impoverished areas to learn more about their own bodies and the environmental effects that disposable pads have. This helps to reduce shame and stigma among these women. Third, it helps to provide training and fair wages to local women from vulnerable communities and helps them become artisans. You can see a few of these cloth pads in the woman’s lap on the left:
These products are not just for India, though. You can help support Shomota’s mission and buy one pad to help reduce your overall carbon footprint, or even convert fully to reusable and buy 5-7.
Shop here: https://www.world.shomota.com/
Learn more about Shomota: http://shomota.com/
Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/menstrualempowermentkolkata/