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Menstrual Cups for Female Residents, A Novel Initiative of Palakuzha Panchayat in Kerala

Neelambaran A |
The initiative was started considering the recurring financial burden of the families and the impact of the non-degradable sanitary napkins on the environment.
The president of the Palakuzha village panchayat, Jaya K A distributed menstrual cups to the residents of the LSG. (Courtesy: Jaya K A)

The president of the Palakuzha village panchayat, Jaya K A distributed menstrual cups to the residents of the LSG. (Courtesy: Jaya K A)

The Palakuzha village panchayat in Ernakulam district has initiated the distribution of menstrual cups to female residents. The first-of-its-kind initiative by the local body is aimed at reducing the recurring financial burden of purchasing sanitary napkins and the environmental issues associated with their disposal.

Considering the general reluctance against the usage of menstrual cups, the village panchayat is holding awareness programs and encouraging the female residents to abandon the napkins to bring an end to the disposal issues.

The scheme is being implemented through the Kudumbashree Kendra for 100 people on a pilot basis, but the number of registrations seeking menstrual cups is continuing to increase. 

The panchayat earmarked funds for the implementation of the scheme for the financial year 2022-23 and has planned to expand the scheme to all female residents.

The president of the panchayat, Jaya K A spoke to NewsClick on the intention behind the launch of the program. “Every household with females is spending around Rs 400 per month for the purchase of sanitary napkins. This recurring expenditure remains a huge burden for low-income families,” she said. 

The panchayat has a female population of 6,828 of the total population of approximately 13,000 as per the 2011 census in around 3,400 households. The Local Self-Governments (LSG) along with the Kudumbashree Gender Resource Center and Palakuzha Kudumbashree Kendra are collaborating to lead the initiative. 

Panchayat president, members and Kudumbashree workers during the event. (Courtesy: Jaya K A)

“One menstrual cup can be used for around 10 years if maintained properly. We are trying to educate the people about the benefits of the usage and it could take time since people are not well informed of such equipment,” Jaya said. 

A pessimistic estimate, with each household spending Rs 200 towards the purchase of sanitary napkins ends up in an annual expenditure of more than Rs 80 lakhs. 

The president, members of the panchayat and volunteers of Kudumbashree participated in an event to distribute menstrual cups to  80 women. “More women are voluntarily registering to receive the cups after the awareness programs. We expect further registrations in the near future,” Jaya added. 

Another major issue faced by the panchayat, leading to the idea of popularising the menstrual cups was the issue faced on disposing of sanitary napkins. An estimated 200 tons of sanitary napkins are generated every day, making it a matter of environmental concern. 

The LSGs are still unequipped with machines to dispose of the waste, making it a challenge for the conservancy workers as well. Most napkins consist of Super-Absorbent Polymers (SAP), which do not decompose. The subsequent breakdown of SAP into micro-plastics also pollutes the soil and water. 

Though degradable sanitary napkins are slowly entering the market, the cost involved remains relatively high. “The Kudumbashree workers and the panchayat administration have decided to go door to door, to create awareness and ensure that the families spend less and the environmental pollution is also contained,” Jaya said.

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