Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Meghna Rathore is Solving Menstrual Hygiene Issues for People and the Planet with her Enterprise Nariksha

According to the data revealed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), only 36 per cent women in India use sanitary napkins, while the rest are still using old cloth and harmful materials such as rags, ash, leaves, mud etc. to manage their period flow. Despite several initiatives from the Government and private entities, the prioritization of menstrual health and hygiene remains dismal in India (especially in rural parts of the nation), and the situation often gets worsened due to widespread myths, taboos and misinformation. Another glaring issue is the disposal of sanitary pads and other period products. In India alone, over 12 billion single-use sanitary pads are being thrown away every year; a large majority of them are made with plastic and other types of environmentally averse materials. These pads are usually dumped into landfills and could take over 500 years to decompose, hence causing substantial environmental and health hazards.

Nariksha Pads Private Limited – a Rajasthan-based enterprise is attempting to solve the above-mentioned problems and gaps in India’s menstrual hygiene ecosystem by creating and distributing biodegradable sanitary napkins for rural and urban women. Nariksha’s 100 per cent organic and biodegradable pads are made from locally available resources such as agro fibres. Their pads contain an absorbent sheet made with straw (crop residue) and herbal extracts and an additional layer of pure cotton-based non-woven sheet. The pads are easy and comfortable to use. Despite being in the MVP (minimum viable product) stage currently, these pads have
received a fair share of enthusiastic and positive feedback from its users.

Nariksha is founded by a 20-year-old MBA student Meghna Rathore, who hails from Rajsamand – a small city located near Udaipur in Rajasthan. Her father – a farmer by profession – always encouraged and supported her to pursue her higher education and to chase her ambitions. After completing her 12 th standard, Meghna started pursuing MBA from Faculty of Management Studies Udaipur. She was in the first year of college when the Covid- 19 outbreak in India began in March 2020 –which inevitably led to the closure of her institute and a shift to online classes. During the Covid lockdown period, i.e. April 2020, onwards Meghna realized that she had a lot of free time to spend — as her online classes were not happening too frequently. Hence, she decided to take a trip along with her family members to their native village Shyam Garh, located in Ajmer district of Rajasthan.

“Our enterprise aims to empower women and protect their period dignity and rights by ushering grassroots-level innovation; hence the name ‘Nariksha’ which is an acronym for Nari ki Raksha (protection of women). Through our offering, i.e. the unique biodegradable sanitary pads of Nariksha, we are attempting to tackle three-fold problems. Firstly, we are offering a better, healthier and sustainable solution to menstruating women and girls by providing them access to our product. Second, we are giving a source of income to a number of local farmers in the state by sourcing and purchasing husk and straw from them — which they otherwise had to eventually burn off and pay a price for. Therefore, we are also contributing in our small way towards mitigating the problem of ‘Parali pollution’ (pollution caused due to stubble burning. Last but not the least, Nariksha’s pads are not only biodegradable, but also add to soil fertility enhancement when disposed in gardens and fields – which obviously points towards their potential in terms of sustainable sanitary waste management and rural development,” informs Meghna Rathore, Founder, Nariksha Pads Pvt. Ltd.

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