While menstruation is no longer a taboo subject thanks to various measures that have raised awareness, there is one more aspect that has not been addressed, say Atyantika Mookherjee, Manasvi Dholakia and Ishita Desai. The three 16-year-old students from Navy Children School, Kochi, are the co-founders of The Red Lotus, a project that aims to open people’s eyes to the problem of disposing of sanitary napkins.
On May 28, World Menstrual Day, the trio hosted a webinar on the topic in collaboration with Shed Red, a Canadian organization that tackles menstrual inequalities.
The impetus to found The Red Lotus in January 2021 came from a visit to a sanitation plant where they saw workers separate used sanitary napkins from household waste. The girls conducted a survey of 200 women in the 15-54 age group and found that the unhygienic disposal of sanitary napkins was indeed an endemic problem.
“Our main points of interest are how people dispose of menstrual waste and whether they know what happens to them after it,” says Manasvi, adding that the plight of sanitation workers has been completely ignored. “It was always about the disposal of waste and not of those who handle the waste. We got to see the reality behind the unhygienic disposal of sanitary napkins. Atyantika agrees that the visit showed them “how essential it is to adopt sustainable menstrual practices.”
Manasvi remembers an employee at a waste management factory in Ernakulam who said with regret: “The least people can do is separate menstrual waste from other household waste.” “It is our goal that sanitation workers are not at risk by working in unsanitary conditions,” she said. The friends started by making newspaper envelopes with a sticker with their logo on it. These garbage bags were distributed to 15 women. They also organized webinars on the topic for the local “mahila mandal” and for the Ramnarain Ruia College in Mumbai.
Currently, the trio are making envelopes by hand with the help of two volunteers from New Delhi and Surat. The team is also looking to partner with paper bag manufacturers to scale up their efforts and recruit more volunteers to raise awareness about the proper disposal of sanitary napkins. . Their project can be found on Instagram @theredlotusproject and on their website.