Reusable Menstrual Products
Why Make the Switch?
Naimeh is an artist/illustrator from Shiraz, Iran – a beautiful city famous for its wine, poetry and being a hub of Persian culture. Three years ago she moved to Auroville, an international community in Tamil Nadu. Naimeh joined the Eco Femme team three months ago.
Why did you make the switch?
Mostly because of my environmental values. When I was living in Iran I worked for a television channel and had a very stressful job. After that, I became sick and was in hospital for two months. When I left the hospital, my partner and I moved to a small village in North Iran. I still had pain and didn’t know why. I went to a traditional herbal medicine doctor and he told me it was related to my lifestyle, stress and food. Little by little, living in a village and using more natural things, changed my physique and mind. I felt so much more calm. I was living in nature – I was missing this in my life.
“Living in nature – it’s not just as a beautiful thing to go enjoy on the weekends. I think that is where my environmental values started.”
Three years ago I moved to Auroville in Tamil Nadu, and for me it was like a kind of forest. There is a lot of uncultivated jungle and there is no service to collect sanitary waste in most of the communities. That means you have to burn or bury your waste and that made me think… when I was living in Iran I never had to think about these things because I was in a city and never knew where the waste went. I’m not so sensitive about blood so it wasn’t hard for me to make the switch to cloth pads in this way.
“Now that I am facing the my own waste and I have to get rid of it myself, it becomes much more obvious and concrete – you become accountable.”
A cloth pad illustration by Naimeh
What is it like to use cloth pads?
At the beginning, I wasn’t really sure if the cloth pad was leakproof or not. It’s a big thing to think about when choosing your menstrual product – you always worry if it’s going to leak! But I am happy to say they don’t leak.
“After a while, I found that many issues I had with disposable pads disappeared – like itching and feeling wet all the time.”
Sometimes it’s a little hard to dry after washing, like during monsoon – because I live in the forest I have to make a fire to dry it and they change colour from the smoke! But it’s fun, I like it. I felt bad using disposable pads. It’s not the same with cloth pads. Even though it’s a little bit more work I don’t mind because I feel good when I use it in many ways – for my health, for the environment.
“In some way, making this effort has changed my relationship to my menstruation. I can’t say in which way exactly, but I feel quite safe and comfortable using cloth pads.”
Eco Femme cloth pads
What do you think is the biggest barrier to people making the switch?
I think in this time that we live, in this period that modernity brings, it makes everything super easy and you don’t worry about the result. We just want to have something easy. People can be lazy to do things like washing and drying – they prefer the easy option, like disposable pads.
What would you say to someone thinking about making the switch?
If I want to advise someone to use cloth pads, for me the most important part is the environmental issue.
“Disposable pads are made of 90% plastic and all this waste goes into the landfill and earth.”
In Iran I found it quite difficult to talk with people about washable cloth pads. I tried to convince my three sisters that cloth pads are better but they didn’t feel ok to wash them. Even though my Grandma used normal cloth and my mum knows about it, for them it is difficult because some people feel like it’s going back to the “old ages”, backwards.
“In a different environment it might be easier. Living close to nature is related – when you are closer to nature you feel more responsible about it.”
But actually, when you are living in a city in an apartment it is much easier to wash and dry cloth pads than living in a forest. It’s a bit ironic. In these “clean spaces” where waste is managed better, it’s even easier to use cloth pads.
Eco Femme is a women-led social enterprise based in Tamil Nadu, India that produces and sells washable cloth pads, provides menstrual health education and opens conversations on menstruation all along the way! To learn more visit https://ecofemme.org/.
Interviewee: Naimeh / Writer: Lauren Chockman