Liberation can mean different things to different women. For a considerably large number, having access to something as basic as a padded piece of cloth can be very liberating.

A recent study by market research firm ACNielsen on ‘Sanitary protection: every woman’s health right’ revealed some shocking statistics. It found that 70 per cent of Indian women cannot afford sanitary napkins. It also found that 23 per cent of Indian girls aged between 12 and 18 drop out of school because of menstruation-related problems.

Changing lives

Keeping this in mind, students and faculty of the entrepreneurship cell of Mount Carmel College here started a sanitary pad manufacturing unit on the college premises in 2010 as a community development project. But little did they know that their product ‘Care + Plus’ would help bring about a change in the lives of hundreds of girls.

An all-woman team comprising students, teachers and two employees of the unit started manufacturing sanitary pads using wood pulp, glue, paper and polyethylene film.

Geeta Suresh, Home Science faculty member, who is part of the initiative, said the team faced initial hiccups. “We were not even sure if our students who manufacture the product would use it. There is so much competition as there are so many brands, so we had a tough time marketing our product,” she said.

But Ms. Suresh pointed out that the members wanted to make a product affordable to the poor. So, after several campaigns, the members tied up with a non-governmental organisation to sell their product. Besides, these young entrepreneurs also tied up with three government schools in Uttarahalli, Kanakapura Road and Agara to provide sanitary pads for free.

From 2010, the all-woman team has manufactured over 10,000 packets. Sitting in the small room where the pads are manufactured, Suganya M., a B.Com. student, said: “After seeing the impact the product has made in the lives of hundreds of girls, we want to ensure that the project sustains.” Calling this “much more than a project”, she said: “We were shocked to learn that several girls skip school 63 days a year when they are menstruating. After we started distributing the pads in schools, we found that their attendance increased.”

Another student, Meghana D.S., said they manufacture at least 500 packets a month. “There are lakhs of women in the country who don’t use sanitary pads. As a result, they don’t go out when they are menstruating.”

Each pack of ‘Care + Plus’ contains eight pads and costs Rs. 20 and is manufactured on a no-profit and no-loss basis. “The money earned from this venture is used to buy raw materials for the next set of products,” Ms. Suresh said, and added, “only women can help other women live a liberated life.”