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Seema Khandale – Founder of Ashay Social Group

Seema Pardeshi – Khandale,
Founder of Ashay Social Group, NGO, Registered in  October 2015.

Mom of two handsome son’s, 20 years after my degree in Botany, I decided to pursue Masters in Social Work from IGNOU and completed it by March 2015. It felt like a dream coming true!

Gradually, my passion for social work evolved and turned into a full-time undertaking. I founded my NGO Ashay Social Group and got it registered in October 2015. Working for the care and protection of our environment, Ashay Social Group.

1) Avoid Plastic Carry Bags and Use Cloth Bags.

2) Health, Hygiene, and Promotion of Sustainable Menstruation Options(Menstrual Cup and Cloth pads)

Mission 1: Avoid Plastic Carry Bags and Use Cloth Bags-

For our social initiative of making people avoid plastic carry bags and use cloth bags, we collected used clothes such as sarees, dupattas and blouse pieces. My team of 4 women in Bhusawal was handed over these clothes, along with a micro employment that involved transforming them into cloth bags. These women were paid for their work on per bag basis. These cloth bags are gifted to the people of society and they are urged to use these bags instead of plastic carry bags.

So far, we have distributed over 20,000 such bags and working to give away many more!

Mission 2: Health, Hygiene, and Promotion of Sustainable Menstruation Options

While working on eliminating the use of plastic carry bags, I came across an article based on a cup in Loksatta in March 2016. It wasn’t an ordinary cup but more or less a magical product- a menstrual cup!

Upon starting my research on it, I found that I was not comfortable buying it online. After about two months, I finally bought a suitable menstrual cup and started waiting for my periods eagerly.

When I used it for the first time, I found it extremely comfortable. And since that day, there has been no looking back at disposable sanitary napkins.

Indian society is not that open when it comes to talking freely about periods. But its high time we understand that menstruation is a natural process and a sign of growing up which is nothing to be ashamed or secretive of!

Why we say a big no to sanitary napkins and a yes to menstrual cups:

 

Majority of women, irrespective of their age, use sanitary napkins during their periods. While sanitary napkins may seem to be a convenient option, it indeed is extremely harmful for our health, the health of the environment and falls heavy on our pocket.

 

Sanitary napkins are harmful for our health because they are made up of plastic and chemicals which can cause rashes, irritation and even some deadly diseases like cancer.

 

Coming to the point of view of the environment, on an average, a woman uses 12-15 sanitary napkins in a month and therefore about 144- 150 in a year. Considering the fact that a woman, on an average, menstruates for about 40 years, she uses close to (or maybe even more than) 6000 sanitary napkins in a lifetime.

 

Can you imagine the quantity of trash a woman creates during her entire menstrual lifetime? When multiplied with the number of millions and millions of women all across the globe, the quantity of menstrual garbage is mind-boggling! And so is the damage to the environment. Another fact that deserves a mention here is that one sanitary napkin takes as much time to decompose as 4 plastic carry bags and one carry bag takes hundreds of years to decompose. Not to forget the dangerous health hazards this trash poses to the ragpickers who collect our domestic waste and sort it out at the transfer station. So it is worth burdening our mother earth and fellow human beings so much when we can avoid it completely with just a bit of awareness about a menstrual cup and gathering the courage to use it?

 

After being sent to the landfills, this plastic covers our earth and blocks the air, sunlight, and water from entering the soil affecting its fertility and preventing the growth of plants and crops. Can we ignore the fact that all our basic needs like food, water, shelter are fulfilled by our one and only MOTHER EARTH? And by dumping lakhs of sanitary napkins day in and day out, we are doing nothing but troubling it unnecessarily!

 

 

Coming to the monetary aspect, a woman spends close to Rs 150 per month on sanitary napkins and when calculated for the entire year, the amount spent on sanitary napkins would be somewhere around Rs 2000 for a year and Rs 20000 for 10 years. On the other hand, a menstrual cup, that costs less than Rs 1000 lasts for 8-10 years if maintained properly. So why spend such a huge amount when the same purpose can be solved in a much comfortable and healthier way in much less expense?

 

Talking about comfort, when using a sanitary napkin, however soft or comfortable it might be, a feeling that something is there is incessant. Every now and then, it keeps reminding you that you are on your periods! However, there is no such thing happening when using a menstrual cup. A supreme comfortable menstrual product, it lets you run, jump, exercise or even swim during your periods! And this is just one reason why we call it a magical product.

Since a menstrual cup does not leak, if emptied timely and worn properly, there is absolutely no risk of staining your clothes. It causes no rashes or irritation and requires minimal water for washing. And remember, there is no trash created so no need to look around for dustbins while you are out during your periods.

 

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a cup-shaped object made up of 100% silicone medically graded material.  Since Silicon is an inert material implying that it does not react with other materials, a menstrual cup is absolutely hygienic, non-toxic and non-allergic.

A menstrual cup is worn inside the vagina at the time of periods to collect all the menstrual fluid. This fluid can be emptied and the cup can be worn again after washing with regular tap water.

There are proper techniques of wearing and removing the cup and one can master them easily with just a bit of practice!

One of the major benefits of using a menstrual cup is that one cup can be used for 8 to 10 years and a good quality cup would cost anything between Rs 500- Rs 1000, depending upon the brand and the size!

Cloth Pads

Cloth pads are the second most sustainable menstruation option that we are working to promote. Made up of pure cotton, a cloth pad is embedded with an eco-friendly preventive layer. Washing in cold water and soap and drying it in sunlight makes it hygienically safe to reuse it. Set of 5 to 6 cloth pads can be used for 4 to 5 years.

Message to the today’s youth, Pl check the things which you are going to use through all the respective angles of Hygiene, Comfort and also which will be in favor of our surrounding and environment. Proper technique to be adopted to make our lives easier.

Message to all:- Please try to avoid one time use and throw options and adopt the sustainable living for our good health and to protect our environment.

So let’s take a small step ahead and protect and take care of our environment.

These all awareness workshops and programs are all done by myself on my own. It’s my return gift to the Society which I’m receiving it since I started understanding it. People understanding my work join hands with me and help me in possible ways.

While working on spreading awareness about the sustainable menstrual options, in 2017, I got an opportunity to design a menstrual cup. A gentleman having an experience of working with silicon for 45 years helped me achieve my next landmark- the designing of RUTU cup.

Made up of good quality silicon medically graded material, the cup has pores and a small stem.

So far, I have helped more than 800 women to switch to this sustainable option and hope to do so for many more in the future. The comfort that RUTU cup gives them has made these women by best volunteers. It does not allow that to sit still but discuss it all around!

In the two years of my awareness campaigns, I have come across women coming from different sections. Young girls, married women, housewives, anganvadi sevikas, teachers, women from government offices, corporate sector, maids, street women, visually challenged, runners, swimmers, and even Doctors. And I am proud to say that I have been successful in guiding them all about how to use a menstrual cup and they are now super-comfortably using the menstrual cup.

 

Here are some more achievements:

In association with India Woman Blog, we successfully carried out the Cold Period Campaign in Jaipur in December 2017. During the campaign, we managed to help 49 women switch to menstrual cup in a single day! In the follow-up round of the campaign, these women showered us with their blessings and asked for more cups for their friends and relatives.

I have conducted a large number of sessions at private and government offices, schools and colleges explaining about sustainable menstrual products. A number of sessions have also been conducted in different communities with the help of Angadwadi sevikas.

Mouth to mouth publicity has worked like magic for me in encouraging more and more women to switch to a menstrual cup and cloth pads.

My thriving social endeavors have been covered by a lot of websites such as The Indian Woman Blog, The Better Indian and Topyaps. Many articles talking about my work have also been published in different newsletters.

I have been fortunate enough to be acknowledged for my work and interviewed by several radio channels broadcasting in Mumbai, Surat, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Dhule etc. I am glad for the fact that it helps me spread the word about my work even more!

I am glad to share that I have had live Facebook sessions and TV interviews with some renowned media houses and organizations such as Pinkathon, Lokmat, and Max Maharashtra.

Recently, I arranged an online session with Indians settled in China. Conducted through an app that allows video-conferencing, I interacted with as many as 500 women in the session and sent RUTU cups all the way to China.

Above all, my biggest achievement is happy sustainable menstrual product users who are also my best volunteers and a great support system. The satisfaction and comfort they have found in using menstrual cups and cloth pads does not let them sit still but spread the word around to more and more women. I am glad that my interaction helps them gain confidence that someone is with them to help them take small steps towards sustainable and happier periods.

I have come a long way in my journey but still, have miles to go before I sleep!

I strongly believe that awareness is the only key to encourage more and more people to start caring for the environment. So my only aim for the future with regards to my social endeavors is to create more and more awareness about the protection of the environment by minimizing the use of plastic bags and switching to sustainable menstrual products.

So let’s take a small step towards care for our environment with this eco-friendly, economically-beneficial and hygienically safe options.

Let us all join hands to avoid the one-time ‘Use and Throw’ concept for the healthy life and betterment of our Future Generations.

Let’s join hands and save our MOTHER EARTH.

 

Thank you!

 

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