Amrita Saigal and Kristin Kagetsu
The current distribution model relies on local entrepreneurial women manufacturing and selling Saathi pads directly to users.
There have also been plans to set up a partnership with an NGO as a pilot program for distribution. Saathi is embarking on a partnership with Ekal Vidyalaya, one of India’s largest education NGOs, which has a network of over 56,000 schools in every state in India, to distribute one million pads to women beginning September 2016.
Traditional methods (ex. reusable cloth), locally available commercial menstrual pads which which can be too expensive for low-income women and to afford (ex. Stayfree, among many others)
Goal 3: to improve and promote good health.
Promotion of menstrual hygiene, retention in work and school for women and girls, decrease in generated environmental waste.
Indian women and girls in urban and rural areas aged 12-47 years (menstrual age).
Saathi has built a small scale, modular manufacturing machine which takes inputs of the absorbent banana fiber pulp, spun-bonds polypropylene and hygienic-grade polyethylene, and outputs a folded, sterilized sanitary pad complete with wings and adhesives for undergarment attachments.
Saathi’s product is currently trade-secret, though they are in the process of determining whether to patent their process/material of creating cotton-like substance from waste banana tree fiber.^(Interview with representative) Experts have noted that converting banana fibers to absorbent fluff and using it in napkins is known in the art and practiced in other operations (e.g. SHE’s go! pads). US 8,936,697 is a granted US patent that discloses the application.
Saathi plans to use a door-to-door distribution model in which they have women who assist in manufacturing the pads sell them to women in their local communities. During the process of selling pads, these women also educate their customers about proper feminine hygiene practices, hopefully encouraging a level of trust in the community in regards to the topic of menstrual hygiene.
User can procure pads on Saathi Pads website.
Unknown. Distribution started in 2017.
Biodegradable material of banana tree fiber, with 5% made from plant-based plastics and 95% from banana fibre Absorbency level is almost double what current standards asks for.Interview with representative Indian government established standard for absorbency; Saathi pads meet the standard for absorbency and nearly doubles what the standard asks for with the latest design.Interview with representative
Expert comments on biodegradability: Polypropylene nonwovens, which are used for the cover and polyethylene films, which are used for the barrier are not biodegradable, neither are positioning adhesives (i.e. the adhesive to stick the pad to the underwear). Additionally, biodegradability per se does not mean that a product would actually biodegrade under all circumstances. Same as for compostability, the environment for degradation has to be right; e.g. PLA, a corn derived plastic is compostable in commercial hot composting facilities but would not decompose when littered.
Up to 8 hours, though varies by woman based upon menstrual flow. Typically 4-6 hours of use.^(Interview with representative)
High absorbency capacity to ensure lifecycle is similar to other pads on the market, material is adhesive and thin enough for user comfort and ease, look and feel similar to standard pads, high absorbency level and capacity.
The designers are also aiming to encourage more awareness of sustainability and acceptance of the product. One goal is to make the pad locally accessible, both in the materials used and distribution chain.^(Interview with representative)
The product has undergone extensive research and testing, both within India and also in MIT’s D-Lab. The Saathi team has ensured that the pads follow government standards and may have plans to run clinical trials with interested gynecologists and other clinicians.^(Interview with representative)
Testing has been done internally within Saathi, though the partnership with NGO Ekal Vidyalaya will allow the partnership to receive further feedback on the pads distributed.^(Interview with representative)
Pad should not be used beyond the recommended time period of 8-10 hours.
No academic publications, though user testing and feedback has been conducted for the product. The product arose from two MIT courses that researched methods for banana fiber processing and manufacturing menstrual pads. Now, the team is focusing on achieving industry standard for the product.^(Interview with representative)
Saathi follows government standards as set by the Bureau of Indian Standards for sanitary napkins (IS 5405).Interview with representative Experts note that sanitary napkins have to meet the microbiological requirements of the governing body (expressed as a maximum bioburden, measured in CFU).
User testing and feedback, research experiments to ensure compliance with governmental standards.^(Interview with representative)
Experts note that considering the sparsity of bathroom facilities (or other locations to change the pads outside the home) in India, it’s recommended to design pads that can be used at least for 12 hours. The user can put on a pad in the morning and change it at night, both in the privacy of her home.
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