Still over 300 million Indian women eschew sanitary pads in favor of rags or dry leaves. 70% of women in rural India cannot afford sanitary products. This has serious consequences. Adolescent girls miss up to 50 days of school a year. Working women lose their daily wages. The social and economic benefits to be had from resolving this problem are potentially so large that doing so is now a focus of social entrepreneurs in India. Including Jaydeep Mandal and Sombodhi Ghosh of Aakar Innovations, a Delhi-based company with which Women on Wings started collaborating recently.
Aakar Innovations has developed a machine that produces low-cost sanitary pads using as raw materials agri-waste such as banana fibre, bamboo and water-hyacinth pulp. Each machine can make 1,600-2,000 pads a day, to be sold for 40% less than branded mass-market products. The pads will be sold door-to-door by village saleswomen who also sell solar lamps, stoves and saris. It will be distributed, too, in women-run grocery stores and beauty parlours.
The Economist, an authoritative weekly newspaper focusing on international politics and business news and opinion, published an article on this subject for which it interviewed Sombodhi Ghosh of Aakar and Maria van der Heijden, Deepika Sharma and Ronald van het Hof of Women on Wings. The full article can be read here.