Hospitals prefer branded products, say entrepreneurs

T. Kamala Devi, member of Malligai Joint Liability Group, one of the women self-help groups operating in Madurai district, is determined to create awareness of reproductive and menstrual hygiene among women.

“For the past two years, our group has been manufacturing low-cost sanitary napkins at a small unit near Chekkanoorani. At meetings where women self-help groups from villages come together, we sensitise them on the importance of menstrual hygiene,” she says.

Women running some of the units that manufacture low-cost sanitary napkins have been trying to do their bit for the cause of women’s health and hygiene.

Lack of proper marketing channels and inadequate sales have, however, led to a decrease in women taking to manufacturing napkins as an entrepreneurial venture.

Shunned by hospitals

“There are many brands in the market and hospitals prefer them. Low-cost napkin manufacturing units require bulk orders from hospitals to sustain their operations,” says Daisy Rani, executive director of Association of Rural Development (ARD), which has been supporting some of these production units.

The low-cost napkins are manufactured using wood pulp, woven cloth and thin plastic sheets.

The self-help group women, working in the units, say they ensure that the products are sterilised and free of chemicals.

They are sold at Rs.3 to Rs.5 a piece. The women say their main customers are primary health centres (PHC) and family planning offices. “We also sell them to women in villages to encourage them to follow a hygienic practice. We are forced to price our products less so that they can afford them. So we hardly recover our production cost,” rues an entrepreneur.

“Around 90 out of every 100 women in a few villages are found to be suffering from diseases as a result of poor menstrual and reproductive hygiene,” says Selva Rani, a member of ‘Sugavasam’ Joint Liability group which also manufactures low-cost sanitary napkins.

“The more we talk to them and cultivate a habit of using a hygienic option available, we are confident, the lesser will be the number of women who are affected by menstrual and reproductive health problems,” she says.

More In: Madurai