Meet the Home-Grown Brands Rising Up to the Challenges of Menstrual Health in India

With the Menstrual Hygiene Day soon approaching, here’s a look at intimate hygiene and menstrual health in India and the home-grown brands that are working towards improving it.

27 May, 2022
Meet the Home-Grown Brands Rising Up to the Challenges of Menstrual Health in India

According to latest estimates by the United Nations Population Division in 2019, women constitute of 49.6% of the global population and the figures by The World Bank in 2020 state that more that 48% population of India is female. Then one would not be wrong in assuming that women’s issues pertaining to hygiene and health would be priority for policy makers and governments worldwide. With health being a basic human right, the questions of intimate hygiene and menstrual health have been discussed and recognised as basic human rights too. 

But to the importance of intimate hygiene and menstrual health become even more nuanced with the intersectionality of gender and sex, where we now endeavour to leave behind our patriarchal and cisnormative values. Menstruation is a hormonal and biological function not just experienced by cisgendered women but also by non-binary and transgender identities. Hence, the collective concerns of menstruators are larger and even more relevant, as their impact goes beyond just the individuals who identify as female and even the concept of womanhood.

Focused on these concerns is a wave of progressive Indian brands, which are both aware and informed of the realities at home. So, here’s an insight into these brands, how they view the current scenario and its challenges, and how they intend to make intimate and menstrual health more accessible and stigma-free in the future.  


The Challenges at Present

Anika Parashar, Founder and CEO of The Woman’s Company, a Delhi-based, conscious intimate wellness and hygiene brand headed by women for everyone, shares that in a country as diverse as ours, the challenges surrounding menstrual health are also unique. She says, “Deep-rooted in superstition and the cultural fabric of our society, menstrual health and awareness is still a taboo subject. According to data by the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, of the 336 million menstruating women in India, about 121 million women use sanitary napkins. That's less than even 40% percent of the total female population! Illiteracy, economic instability, institutional biases, and often customs and rituals prevent women from getting the menstrual healthcare and information that is necessary for their overall health. Besides this, a dearth of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities at schools, workplaces, and public spaces is also a contributor to deprioritising menstruation in our society.”



Menstrual health

According to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report of 2020, about 23 million girls drop out of school every year due to periods in India.


Yes, period poverty is a real concern in India and it is defined as inaccessibility to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, and lack of waste management, or a combination of these factors. It is said to negatively affect the physical and mental health of an estimated one-fourth of the global population which menstruates. “Due to the numerous socio-cultural myths, beliefs, and taboos, menstruation has been rendered a dirty word in India. The importance of menstrual hygiene management and sanitation has been conveniently side-lined and period poverty is a state of mind, where folks hesitate to invest ₹500 on menstrual health management, hygiene, or sanitation but are willing to spend the same or more on a lipstick. In today’s progressive world, one of the greatest challenges when it comes to intimate hygiene and menstrual health in India is also the lack of inclusivity. Menstrual health management is of immense necessity for all,” says Devidutta Dash, Founder and CEO of LemmeBe, a fierce Hyderabad-based period care brand, which believes in empowering women without burdening the planet.   

There is an inescapable sense of embarrassment and an unhealthy attitude towards menstruation prevalent in every strata of the Indian society, even amongst the affluent and educated lot. “The shame and judgment by others, which we internalise with respect to our bodies, is the biggest challenge we presently face. In India, we’re raised to hide our sanitary pads or period products, and use euphemisms for our periods,” adds Sachee Malhotra, Founder of That Sassy Thing, a feminist brand that believes in normalising conversations around women’s bodies, menstrual and sexual well-being.     


The Need for Education

According to United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 71% adolescent girls in India remain unaware of menstruation till menarche and in 2020, a Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report revealed that in India, about 23 million girls drop out of school every year due to periods. As soon as they hit the ‘reproductive age’, their families either pull them out of schools, or due to no facilities or support system to manage menstruation at schools, girls end up missing out on 5 to 6 days of attendance every month. There is indeed, an absolute void when it comes to conversations regarding menstrual, reproductive, and sexual health in India, both at schools and homes. 

It’s time we recognise periods as normal and natural, and value their interconnectedness to other aspects of well-being like mental, reproductive, and physical health. “Hence, it is vital that subjects like menstrual management, intimate hygiene, and sanitation are introduced earlier on in the school curriculum,” Devidutta states. “And not just the scientific details of period care, but proper, practical lessons for usage and disposal of sanitary pads, and the cleaning and reusing other reusable menstrual products.”

Menstrual health

UNICEF states that 71% adolescent girls in India remain unaware of menstruation till menarche or puberty.


“Education plays a vital role in promoting a positive culture around menstrual health. From schools, colleges, to media and menstrual hygiene brands—every company and institution needs to play a part and provide accurate and appropriate information, especially to girls and women about the importance of menstrual wellness,” shares Ravi Ramachandran, Founder and CEO of Nua, a menstrual and personal hygiene brand headquartered in Mumbai. They started Project Prerna, an ongoing initiative that was started in 2020 that supported 30, 000 women in low-income neighbourhoods and women frontline workers (including doctors, nurses, and healthcare support staff) by providing them with menstrual and personal hygiene product kits during COVID-19. 

Sachee further explains, “We need to start by ‘educating the educators’. When teachers and counsellors are aware of concepts like body neutrality and are fluent in sex education and mental health issues, we’ll certainly have more holistic and empowering conversations in the classrooms, which can turn into safe spaces that will be super instrumental in building a better world. At That Sassy Thing, we’re also building free sex education courses (by June 2022), which is a huge step by us towards creating awareness about our bodies and sexualities. We hope to have schools and educational institutes pick up some of them too, so that young people can be free of misconceptions, especially when all they see is ‘perfect’ people with flawless bodies all around them in the mainstream media.” 


Question of Sustainability

There is an imperative need to address menstrual health through the lens of sustainability as plastic pollution and waste management are two alarming environmental challenges India struggles with currently. “Approximately 121 million women in India dispose off around eight sanitary napkins per menstrual cycle on an average, resulting in approximately 12.3 billion disposable pads being added to the landfills annually in India. With the steady environmental degradation, it is imperative for these products, which are essential for menstruators in general for a significant part of their lives to be made toxin-free and biodegradable,” states Anika. 

Menstrual health

Give reusable menstrual hygiene products a try at least once, as switching to one is not only eco-friendly but also more economical.

Ravi agrees, “Since sanitary pads are the most popular solution for managing menstrual hygiene needs, more and more women need to choose brands that offer vegan, cruelty-, and toxin-free menstrual hygiene products. The ones made using unregulated toxic chemicals result in poor menstrual health and also harm the environment with their carbon footprint. Plus, the disposal of single-use products in an incorrect manner has a direct negative impact on the environment. Therefore, Nua as a brand ensures that every single sanitary pad is provided with a plastic-free envelope for an easy and safe disposal process.”

Harry Sehrawat, Co-Founder of Sanfe, an intimate hygiene and body grooming brand based in Delhi, also echoes a similar intent. “Reusable menstrual products like the menstrual cup have a lower environmental impact than single-use menstrual products. At Sanfe, we have a wide range of sanitary pads made of bamboo fibre, along with our range of reusable menstrual cups, which are a great alternative to your conventional disposable menstrual hygiene products,” he says.


What We Can Do?

Brands and their marketing strategies, just like any other media we consume, are reflective of the dynamics of the world we inhibit. Surely, to bring about positive change in the attitudes and mindsets of people and transform societal structures takes time. But it is certainly heartening to see these home-grown brands trying to passionately advocate for a more inclusive and equal society and empower women and menstruators by initiating open dialogue and judgement-free engagement. 

Menstrual health

Having open and non-judgemental conversations about intimate hygiene and menstrual health with everyone around is essential for breaking the archaic norms and stigmas.


Menstrual Hygiene Day celebrated annually on May 28, initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2013 to build awareness and highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management at a global level is just around the corner again, and this time around the theme is: #WeAreCommitted. They envision that by 2030, we create a world where no woman or girl is held back because she menstruates. This means a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame. So, maybe this time around we can all work towards such a world together, by firstly accepting and loving our own selves and eliminating all traces of shame and stigma from our own lives.