Anju Sanitary Pad, Designed for the Protection of Both Women and the Environment!

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In a developing nation like Nepal, there are many stigmas associated with menstruation which often leads to the spread of misinformation and inadequate access to menstrual hygiene management tools and education. As a result, most menstruating women often rely on makeshift reusable cloth pads which can lead to allergies or serious reproductive tract infections when using the wrong type of material and not washed properly. Other issues such as the access, cost and lack of choices of menstrual hygiene care products suited to individual needs, also act as a barrier for women to gain education and employment while improper disposal of such products contribute significantly to environmental pollution. Driven by this shared experience of women all around Nepal and to tackle the associated issues, the founder Mrs. Anju Thapa introduced a range of eco-friendly and reusable sanitary pads made from natural and safe materials, alongside a range of other menstrual hygiene and maternal care products directed towards promoting women’s health and safe menstruation management. 

Read our conversation with the founder to learn about her efforts to promote menstrual health equity and ensure all menstruation women can celebrate menstruation as a natural experience and without fear, embarrassment or discomfort.

What was the inspiration behind starting a menstrual hygiene product manufacturing business?

The business idea was cultivated as a solution to my own problems associated with menstrual hygiene and comfort. I had many issues during my period such as cramps, discharge and allergy to commercial sanitary pads. With no alternative options, I started incorporating my own cotton fabric into the store bought pads which I eventually learned is susceptible to bacterial growth and can adversely affect our reproductive health. 

I was later made aware of a special type of cloth pads on the international market, from which I tested various brands. This led me to think, I knew so many other women with the same issues so it didn’t make sense for only me to have access to safe and comfortable menstrual pads. This thought spurred the idea to turn it into a business which I established in 2018.

Can you describe the process from sourcing suitable fabrics to assembling the pad design.

Hand-stitching and assembling re-usable pads

I initially learned the stitching process by hand online using 100% cotton, banana fibre and bamboo fabrics which have very strong absorbent properties but we also had to focus on the antimicrobial effects of the fabric. We eventually discovered a special type of cotton fabric available on the Chinese and Indian market which has breathable, ultra- absorbent, durable and anti-microbial properties that ensures women can meet their menstrual hygiene needs in a safe and convenient manner. Some women feel embarrassed while carrying or drying the pad in public so we also focus on the aesthetics of our pads using different types of fabric designs including the pouch.

You have stated that you are an advocate for safe menstrual hygiene practices. How do you implement this?

We provide training programs set up by the local wards and municipalities in Rupandehi and the surrounding areas. There are many women community gatherings in these areas which enables a better outreach through a single voice to many people at once. I also try to grab the opportunity to speak with my customers and educate them about the basics of period hygiene management such as the correct way to use our pad, effectively wash it in dettol water and to dry it well in the sun. We also get a lot of opportunities from different schools, to teach young girls on how to deal with their periods in a hygienic manner, to not be embarrassed about a natural process and to challenge the stigmas associated with menstruation.

How did you encourage people to shift to using cloth pads?

The older generations and people from less developed areas were gradually moving away from make-shift pads from their old-clothes to disposable pads and it was ironic to them to switch back to reusable cloth pads again. So I had to educate a lot of people on the adverse effects on their reproductive health from using the wrong type of fabric and instead use chemical free and quality material pads. In fact, there has been a tremendous increase in the sales of reusable cloth pads but I can state that there are no other brands that can ensure our quality and hygiene because others usually use a waterproof type fabric that can easily last up to 2 years.

How would you describe the growth of your company? 

The company has been operating smoothly for a three-year period but I did struggle when the pandemic hit, as raw material imports were completely stopped and halted production. As a working mother I feel like I still have yet to dedicate more time towards the future growth of the company.

Where are you currently based and are  your products available nationwide?

We are based in Tilottama, Rupandehi. Majority of our pad sales are through non-profits in Kathmandu and also personal orders through our website and Daraz. Our marketing has slowly gained traction in Butwal, Bhairawa and local areas as well. 

What other products does the brand offer?

We also offer a menstrual cup, a sutkeri set and separate sisu set for both mother and baby which is equivalent to a hospital bag. This product also stemmed from my own experience of frantically having to find all the items for my hospital bag during my own pregnancy. 

We heavily invest in R&D regarding our designs, it has become one of the top selling features of our products. We are also planning to introduce period panties in the near future, it is still in the development and design process.

How do you minimize waste in your production process?

I have collected all the remaining fabric after stitching and plan to repurpose it as maternity nursing pads to help new moms during the breastfeeding period.

What are the aims of the business?

I aim to tackle the cases of reproductive health associated issues and disease through distribution of safe and comfortable menstrual care products. Another mission is to reduce environmental pollution caused by non-biodegradable disposable pads, which is a serious waste management issue in Nepal. If I can contribute a little to these causes, maybe the next person can contribute a little more and our collective action can bring forth change. 

Do you have any tips for women on menstrual hygiene management?

I would strongly advise all women to be very cautious and responsible in taking care of their reproductive health. This not only applies to buying good quality and safe sanitary pads but ensuring it is changed frequently, disposed of, washed and dried properly. These habits are integral in maintaining safe reproductive health for all women.

Follow the link below to explore their wide range of eco-friendly menstrual hygiene and maternity care products!

Facebook: anjusanitarypad

Website: anjupad.com