More than 20 self-help groups and non-profit organisations under the umbrella of Menstrual Hygiene Management Consortium (MHMC) have rallied to explore possibilities of providing standardized sanitary napkins under the state government scheme to provide free napkins to adolescents, pregnant women and women prisoners.

Standardizing production and marketing SHG-made sanitary napkins under a single brand name is the key to competing with merchandise sold by various multinational companies was discussed on the opening day of the UNICEF supported workshop to deliberate on challenges in standardization on Friday.

Surviving competition from brands

The need for standardisation is imminent with the government planning to rope in SHGs for belted models intended for pregnant women. The consortium hopes that by improving production capacity, it can persuade the government empower women by extending a percentage of beltless models production to SHGs, N.Manimekalai, Secretary of the organisation told The Hindu.

Sanitary napkins produced by the SHGs have an edge over market churned ones as they are sterilised, something which many branded ones skip, claimed expert panel. Attractive packaging at cost-effective rate is vital to help SHG made merchandise take the heat of competition, said A.Devaraj, former Water, Environment, Sanitation officer, chairing the panel discussion.

Uniform training necessary

Standardisation of production is impossible without regularisation of training, said Revathy, Gandhigram Trust. “Many ventures are unsuccessful as group members receive namesake training and lack basic knowledge like where to procure raw materials. If procedures of preparing product, machinery and raw materials used by organisations differ, standard product under one brand may not be possible,”

When minimization of cost to the lowest common denominator is sought, the product quality is reduced, said Ms. Revathy. “Sanitary napkins must be user-friendly and must serve the purpose of prolonged usage. Can a school girl use it comfortably till she returns home is a question we must ask ourselves,”

Staying one step ahead of MNCs

Self –help groups must stay one step ahead of MNC, said, materials engineer Thangasamy. To churn out quality products, the focus must shift from cheap products to using the best of technologies and raw materials. By eliminating intermediaries in sale and purchasing raw material for all organisations under one roof, cost can be minimised, he suggested. Wood pulp over cotton was advocated as ideal material.

Concurring with him, Nagalakshmi, at the helm of a successful SHG in the business, said it was possible to make profits with minimal costs and reduce production time. If SHGs were to take the heat from competitors, they should endeavour to come up with innovative strategies. She cited the example of biodegradable napkins produced by women as a futuristic concept with onus on environment. Divakar dwelt on importance of evaluating if machinery can be operated by women in self help groups.

Kannaghi Chandrasekar, president, MHMC, M.Tamil Selvi, treasurer spoke. Earlier, inaugurating the workshop, Ramani Devi, vice-president, Tiruchi Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society (TRIOGS), emphasised on the role of menstrual hygiene to keep detrimental infections at bay. A.Devaraj, former WES officer, UNICEF,Chennai traced the growth of MHMC.