By Amar Tulsiyaan
Menstrual Hygiene and periods; what is our first reaction when we hear these words? Chances are, that majority of the people avoid even talking about this. The conversation around menstrual hygiene has been brushed under the carpet for decades by our society. Even when we talk about it, we do it in hushed voices or convenient metaphors. Just think about how we have normalized wrapping up such an everyday item as sanitary napkins in black covers to make sure nobody can see what’s inside.
Yes, there has been a promising shift in the narrative in the last decade, especially in urban areas. Women are using social media to spread awareness around the issue and send across the message that periods are natural. How can a normal bodily function experienced by close to 50% of the population be considered a taboo? We are seeing innovations in the area with menstrual cups, intimate hygiene washes etc finding a growing customer base.
However, at the same time, a large section of our country still lacks basic education related to this issue. This is due to a combination of patriarchal structures, poor sex education, and absence of proper channels. Even today, according to the National Family Health Survey 2022, 50 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 use clothes as pads. The survey found that there was a direct link between the education of women and the kind of menstrual hygiene product they used. Conversely, 90.3 percent of women with 12 or more years of education use hygienic sanitary methods.
This shows that education is the biggest barrier in reaching a stage where the majority of the women in our country begin using hygienic and safe menstrual hygiene products. That’s where the new-age menstrual hygiene brands are stepping in. The brands that have entered this space in the last decade, especially the ones which are home grown, understand the importance of education and awareness, and are approaching this issue from a solution perspective. The effort is to solve the problem of misinformation around menstrual hygiene, equip women to make better decisions, and remove the taboo around it.
And this is being done through innovative ways like never before. The use of creative advertisement, showcasing of brands on large platforms, and leveraging social media to start a conversation; these are some of the ways through which the brands are supporting the cause of menstrual hygiene awareness. India has been waiting for an important step in the right direction when it comes to menstrual wellness. Primarily because the issue has been neglected for a long time. Access to menstrual wellness products is ensured in developed nations like the US and UK. However, in India, there is still a long way to go before we see that such access is made available in our public spaces, institutions, etc.
Because of this reason, it is important that the private players take charge and give a push to the wheel of change. Menstrual hygiene products are affordable for a large section of the population. Once there is widespread awareness, it will be easy to reach out to more and more customers who will opt for better products rather than outdated methods of dealing with periods. IBEF projects that the rural FMCG market will grow at a CAGR of 17.41% to $100 billion between 2009 and 2025. Less than 20% of women have access to sanitary pads today. These brands are taking steps to democratise access to feminine hygiene products and thereby seize a sizable market in the rural area that was previously untapped. In doing so, they are crossing the barrier between Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and reaching the regions which will benefit the most from the change that is coming.
(The author is Founder & CEO, Niine. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)