Ok, so it has been a while since I’ve made a periodtastic post and after all, isn’t this why most of us read this blog anyways? … not to read about my life, but to read about the fun of menstruation and feminine hygiene 😀
I wanted to test out the Stayfree Secure that I’ve been reading so much about. According to what I’ve read, Stayfree Secure was supposed to be the “lower-end version” of the regular Stayfree which we are so accustomed to in North America. With the ones I’ve found in the Asian mart’s, they did not appear to be of lower grade, but in fact, had contours and patterns even better than the standard Stayfree. Suffice to say, I really wanted to test them out since I wanted to see how much “lower grade” that it really is, but the version in the picture above is different than the one I had expected. I had found this at a farmer’s store and these ones seemed like the ones you would imagine when maxi pads first became available. They looked like something that your mother or grandmother would have likely used. Even from the package itself, the fact it is still labeled as a “sanitary napkin” (which is rare in Canada) and that they specifically state “beltless” really makes you wonder how old this package really is, haha. The markings on the package says it was packaged in 2004 yet it says best used within 3 years of production. Suffice to say, this would make the package 6-years old. From what I understand, Stayfree Secure is a prominent line of Stayfree products in India, providing a low-cost sanitary napkin solution for women who do not have the money to buy “better grade” menstrual products.
When I got home and took a closer look at the package, I then realized the minor detail, lol. However, I did not feel there were any noticeable quality degradation as a result of being older than the package recommendation. They were selling the package next to laundry detergent, so the pads had a scented smell even though they were unscented natively 😆 Having noticed the fact the package used the terms sanitary napkin and beltless really made me think what I was in-store for when I opened the package – expecting this really flimsy and unimaginable-to-use product. The shape of the pad was quite interesting, resembling a lack of creativity during the design process! All this sanitary napkin is, is seriously a rectangular wad of cotton stuffed between an adhesive bottom and a top-cover. Although I was not overly impressed with the design of the pad itself, I can definitely say that the cottony cover made it worthwhile! I’m sure Maysea and Poh Ching will agree that cottony covers rule too! 🙂
The absorbency and “lock in” feature was quite amazing given the appearance of the quality. I found that this pad would even give some current-day-brand-name pads a run for their money. Their claim of the adhesive system was questionable however. There’s quite a bit of potential movement because the adhesive at the bottom of the pad was, 1) not sticky enough, and 2) did not cover enough area. Should the user be wearing tight underwear, this should not be an issue, but I think its ability to stay-put without wings, tight underwear and good adhesives under rapid activities such as sports would pose quite a leak risk. The tapered end of the pad certainly does help with any front-overflows or rear-overflows. I believe these pads would be inconvenient for use outside of the house though because they are not individually-packaged like we’re all used to, perhaps what one would call a luxury because even when I saw pads for the first time 21 years ago, the pads then were all just out-of-the-package like as shown below. Imagine having to carry a pad in your purse or bag without a separate wrapper and in full-size! Yep, this is definitely the evolution of pads since disposable/beltless pads were made available. The pad is extremely rectangular and it’s literally like a “brick in your underwear” 😆
Although the back of the package gave it away how the pad looks and how serious I was when I say it is “very rectangular” – but here it is… the real-deal.
This is your typical pad you’d find in pad dispensers that dispense “last resort” pads. It has little design and contour, but a huge wad of cotton packed in between the top and low layers. The cottony soft cover feels nice and does not feel abrasive or sticky, even when wet. The thing that seemed to bug me the most was the fact that because the cotton is not packed-tightly like modern pads, when wet, the cotton within shifts around which may cause discomfort and also a potential for menstrual flow to “come back up” or the bunching action may result in uneven distribution of flow/cotton, resulting in an accident. Because of how rectangular the pad is though, after bunching or crunching, the pad does “revert to its original shape” due to the rigidness. Given that this is supposed to be a “low-quality” pad, I certainly cannot be comparing this to brand-name products and expectations. Given that these pads were extremely inexpensive, the comfort and absorbency is definitely on-par!
I’m not quite sure whether the lack of stickiness of the adhesive is as a result of the “expiry” of the pad, but the strip itself is quite thin and would not survive well with loose underwear or rapid movements. This would be a great pad to use at-home since it does not have individual packaging and requires a more watchful eye since the quality may not be as reliable. One thing I will not undermine is the comfort of this particular version of the Stayfree Secure, although I must say this is exactly the type of pad that tampon-users would dub, “feels like wearing a diaper” since it is fairly long, thick and is in the shape of a brick! The pad is not very weighty since after all, it’s just cotton and some light cover material.
Ya, those are my ugly fingers holding it up, haha. But as you can see, this is definitely not a thin pad by any means and would definitely cause a bit of a bulge through underwear (but not visible through pants of course). Let’s just wrap it up and say this pad is definitely worth the cost, but don’t expect miracles out of it. Comfort in terms of thickness is not all that great, but comfort in terms of the feel and texture is excellent. The potential moving cotton within the pad may be of concern, but the absorbency is superior for a low-grade pad. Wrapping the pad for disposal is quite hard due to the lack of adhesiveness and the thickness just compounds the difficulty. It is best just to throw it away as-is, but I’m sure that’d be an unsightly vision for some. Folding it in half also seems like a good way to “cover the mess” but make it compact enough for disposal. I suppose given that these type of pads were more of the 1980’s, early 1990’s development, “getting rid of the evidence” wasn’t on their list of top-priorities when it came to menstrual hygiene.
I can’t wait to get an opportunity to try one of the nicer Stayfree Secure’s that I can get from the Asian mart with the blue/yellow packaging. Those seem to be much closer version of modern Stayfree maxi pads that people use nowadays without the thickness, better contour/design and security through enhanced adhesive and wings.
Oh yay, I managed to squeeze something in! The guest are outside watching Ip Man 2, so I had time to do a very small update! 😀
Found this news article… absolutely amazing. I discovered this article as it was posted by “Scoo” @ Kayo’s FF2. All credits and acknowledgments remain that of the article author as I have made no additions/modifications to the content posted in between the quoted areas.
A chandelier made of tampons, entitled “The Bride” and created by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, hangs at an arts festival in Venice, June 9, 2005. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)
NEW DELHI, India — Not long ago, women in the small south Indian town of Coimbatore were convinced that 47-year-old A. Muruganantham was some kind of pervert.
After a failed attempt with his wife and sisters and a cockeyed do-it-yourself effort with a football bladder full of goat’s blood, he’d finally hit upon a surefire way to test the low-cost sanitary napkin he was developing for India’s poor. He was passing out free pads to college girls and collecting their used napkins for study. And he had a storeroom full of them. When his mother saw it, she burst into tears and packed her things to move in with his sister.
“Everybody claimed I am a psycho, [that] I am using this as a trump card to get close to girls,” said Murugantham, who taught himself English in the course of his research — partly to get past the telephone answering systems he encountered when he called U.S. suppliers. “Before going across that automatic, it will cost 300 and 400 rupees. The moment the operator starts speaking, it will cost 300 and 400 rupees. Then the person will speak in slang English, ‘OK,’ because this is a material that is only used by big companies.”
Nobody thinks he’s a psycho anymore.
In 2006, Muruganantham, a high school dropout, perfected a machine for making low-cost sanitary napkins against all odds. Along the way he’d taught himself English, recruited local college professors to help him draft letters and surf the web for suppliers, worn panties (not to mention a sanitary pad and a football bladder full of blood), and spent many times the cost of his TVS Motors moped on laboratory analyses. He even invented an alter ego to get past the gatekeepers at the U.S. firms that supplied the pine wood-based cellulose — not cotton — that he discovered was the raw material he needed.
“The moment they hear that somebody is calling from some remote place, in India, they will ask, ‘Who are you?’ So I said I am a millionaire in Coimbatore. We are going to start the napkin company, so we want raw materials,” said Muruganantham.
Eventually, he triumphed. Capable of producing around 120 pads per hour, the machine Murugantham developed costs only about $2,500 — a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Procter & Gamble (P&G) spend on their plants. And while output of 120 pads an hour hardly offers much in the way of economies of scale, Muruganantham’s invention has created its own business model for small “self help groups” of low-income women — creating jobs that earn them twice what they made as ordinary laborers.
“It is an innovative way of addressing the issue of female hygiene and is accessing a market that the Kotex product made by Kimberly-Clark currently does not access,” said a spokesman for Kimberly-Clark.
But even as Muruganantham has intrigued multinationals, earned accolades from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (Madras) and the National Innovation Foundation and inked a deal with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to supply his machines to women’s self-help groups in Africa, a controversial Indian government scheme threatens to squash his grassroots movement.
According to local newspaper reports, the government is finalizing plans to supply free and “highly subsidized” sanitary napkins to India’s poor. The program is being designed to cover 200 million rural women, using 100 sanitary napkins each per year, at an estimated cost of around $450 million. No details are available yet regarding the supplier, but in India, as in the rest of the world, virtually the only major manufacturers of sanitary napkins are multinationals P&G, J&J and Kimberly-Clark.
“This is a ‘first of kind’ program where public-private partnership is being explored to bring high quality products to rural poor at affordable rates,” said the Kimberly-Clark spokesman. “The proposed model would envisage a complete reworking of the value chain to drive costs down. The intent is for the project to be self sustainable over a period of time. The Indian government is in talks with all the major sanitary napkin manufacturers — and nothing is finalized as yet.”
Muruganantham doesn’t see it that way.
“What I am telling is that if the government permits me we are able without subsidy to provide the napkins,” Murugantham said. “Already, we can make napkins for 1 rupee, 50 paise. If the government comes, we can reduce that by 50 percent.”
And if the government guarantees orders from rural women, the scheme won’t cost the state a penny, Murugantham believes. With orders in hand, the women will be able to get small-business loans from local banks, enabling local entrepreneurs to set up 100,000 manufacturing units across India.
But can a grassroots invention really compete with some of the world’s largest multinational companies?
Because of poverty and social stigmas surrounding menstruation, today, most Indian women use rags or even scraps of gunny sack instead of modern sanitary napkins — which are unavailable or too costly. For the government, this represents a public health crisis, raising the likelihood that millions of women will suffer reproductive tract infections or even cervical cancer. And for the big napkin makers, it represents a huge, untapped market that promises to keep the business growing for decades.
“Realizing the huge business potential of converting the homemade napkin users to branded napkins,” J&J launched its Stayfree Secure brand in India in 1997, and the low-cost product was the largest selling sanitary napkin in the Indian market within four years, according to the company’s web site.
Riding on its Whisper brand, first launched here in 1989, P&G’s feminine hygiene division notched growth of 26 percent last year, according to the company’s annual report, generating sales of around $100 million.
The future lies in cracking the market comprising the urban and rural poor. Describing a partnership with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to teach rural women of Rajasthan about reproductive health — now set to be expanded in Muruganantham’s home state of Tamil Nadu — P&G’s annual report concludes, “Significantly, the program has been able to convert 85 percent of cloth users to sanitary pad users who used WHISPER.”
“P&G and Johnson and Johnson look at this issue merely in terms of sales turnover,” said PC Vinoj Kumar, a crusading journalist. “But as a social entrepreneur Muruganantham’s business model has socio-economic objectives. It creates employment for thousands of rural women, apart from promoting use of sanitary napkins.”
One of the first to discover Muruganantham’s invention, Kumar recently launched a Facebook campaign against the government’s plan to subsidize sanitary napkins, which he suspects will be sourced from one of the three multinationals that control the world market. In March, one of his campaigners filed a Right to Information (RTI) request seeking “copies of all files related to this scheme right from the initiation of the scheme, to any consultations held with any external agencies, the basis on which the scheme was announced and any other relevant details.”
But according to Kumar, the government’s reply simply stated the obvious: “This is to inform you that currently the Ministry, Health & Family Welfare does not have a scheme to provide free sanitary napkins for women living below poverty line. Further, discussions for formulation of the same as well as an assessment of various modalities is taking place in the ministry, after which, the scheme would be proposed.”
In case you’re not fluent in the lingo, that’s bureaucratese for buzz off: The ministry provided none of the files related to the plan or any other details requested under India’s RTI law. Now Kumar plans a letter-writing campaign to approach the president, the prime minister, the health minister and the finance minister and ask them to consider Muruganantham’s proposal before finalizing the free sanitary napkin scheme.
Meanwhile, Murugantham’s not standing still.
His napkin machines are already in place in more than 200 locations across India, where they are empowering local women, and taking the stigma away from menstruation and feminine hygiene by turning it into a lucrative trade. Though many have flourished, some self-help groups have floundered without management expertise — raising doubts whether a legion of grassroots organizations could truly handle the mammoth job of supplying sanitary napkins to the country. But Murugantham argues that if the government supports him instead of P&G or J&J, his machines cannot only solve India’s feminine hygiene crisis but also provide employment for a million women.
That’s radical thinking from the bottom of the pyramid. The question is: Will the government squash it and make a mockery of the much ballyhooed “decade of innovation?”
What an inspiration…. 🙂 I wonder if I’ll ever do something awesome like this, lol. It wasn’t long ago my ex said I should perhaps go work for a feminine hygiene company or design my own pads… I have a feeling if I did, they’d be very good 😆 OK, I have to have an ego sometimes, haha!