Unipads (Reusable Sanitary Pads) is committed to empowering women in more ways than one – be it by training and employing rural women to make them financially independent or by educating women about the importance of hygiene during menstruation.
While on one hand, we are working with NGO’s in Yemen, on the other hand, we were also keen on educating women in India about menstruation and use of hygienic products. We started by educating our house helps of these methods but were looking at targeting more women. It was at this time, that we came in contact with Reshma Asrani, Program Head at DriverBen, an initiative started by Jan Vikas foundation, Ahmedabad.
DriverBen is an initiative started by Jan Vikas and Azad Foundation, that started off by initially training 25 women from underprivileged backgrounds to become professional drivers thus generating employment and making them financially independent. What really wowed us was that these women had always been confined to household chores and had never earned anything for themselves or their families. Today DriverBen boasts of a team of 500 professional women drivers who support their families financially.
We felt that we shared a common objective of empowering women and hence got in touch with Reshma to meet the women at Driverben.
We reached out to the women of Driverben with 3 main objectives:
Understand: Before we spoke to them about Unipads, we wanted to understand their current practices and reasons for the same. We also wanted to find out about challenges faced during menstruation.
Educate: In India, most women, specially women from lower strata of society are not well educated about menstruation. Despite it being a natural phenomena that every woman goes through, it is a taboo to talk about, let alone question age old practices, so one of our main objectives was to educate women of safe and hygienic menstrual practices.
Product exposure and placement: A step in convincing women to switch to re-usable sanitary pads was providing them with the product and requesting them to use unipads and share feedback later on.
We met 50 women from the team of DriverBen. We started the session by trying to understand the practices and challenges faced by these women.
The usage of sanitary products amongst these women was very interesting. We found that since these women were drivers, some women used disposable pads during their shifts which lasted anywhere between 8-10 hours but while they were at home, they used a cloth.
The reason for dual usage was clear :Cloth : A cloth costs nothing but was not dependable as it is not leak proof
Disposable pads: It is leak proof hence provides more security than a cloth but it is expensive
Hence, it was clear that the women wanted a solution that would lie mid way between a cloth and a pad. Something that would give them the best of both worlds – cheap as well as benefits like durability and leak proof.
REACTION TO THE PRODUCT
“What if there was a pad, a cotton pad that was not as expensive as your regular sanitary pad?” The unanimous answer was “We will buy it”.
The initial exposure of the pad was met with a lot of curiosity and interest. Even before we began to explain about the product benefits and usage methods, there were spontaneous responses to the look and feel of the product.
Spontaneous reactions were as follows:
Touch and feel: Liked how the pad felt soft to touch ensuring them that it would not give them rashes.
Look: The simple blue look of the reusable pads by Unipads was liked, gave a sense of fresh and clean.
Locking sysytem: The button system was appreciated ensuring that the pad would not shift hence lesser chances of a leakage.
Women also had few queries:
Cost: Would it be cheaper than disposable pads?
Re-usability / durability: How many times could they use it? When would they know they had to dispose it off?
Stain removal: Won’t the pad have stains? Will it look clean like a new disposable pad even after usage?
Leak proof: Would it guarantee non leakage? Would it last for a longer duration- Could they use it while on job?
We also educated them on other parameters like washing and storing of used pads when not at home.
Overall, the response to Unipads was very positive. It generated curiosity and a desire to use immediately. Many women even asked us from which store they could purchase it. We explained to them about the logistics and distribution and they were eager to know how soon the product would be in the market.
We at Unipads, feel proud to have been associated with Driverben, an organization that shares a similar vision as ours, that of women empowerment.
We left with smiles on our faces when we saw these women do the calculations and figure out for themselves that it was indeed cheaper than regular sanitary pads. The women promised to use these pads and provide us with feedback and with the product usage research, we are sure that we will be able to convince them to get rid of methods which are both unhygienic and dangerous. We look forward to meeting these women again and share their experiences with Unipads.
We also wish to partner with more NGOs/ women to spread awareness about reusable pads and hope to bring about a revolution by educating women on safe and hygienic menstrual habits.