Rethinking feminine hygiene with jute based sanitary pads

Compared to other females in their early mid-twenties, I have a fairly manageable period cycle. I was a tad early and started to bleed from the green age of 12. So far I have roughly used up 3000 pieces of disposable sanitary pads. All of which are made out of materials that include plastics, chemicals and not 100% biodegradable and environmentally friendly components. This is the solitary contribution of one sole person to the never-ending global pollution.

Now, as a person who’s concerned about the planet (because, duh! We only live here!), this calculation alarms me. A big chunk of the world’s population bleeding on any menstruation product every 6- 8 hours is creating this huge pile of junk that we don’t know how to permanently get rid of.

Menstruation Cups have been introduced as a solution to all this, but let’s face it- its basically the luxury like our government thinks menstruation products are. And it’s not accessible to the female population of a country where only 11% of the menstruating population uses safe hygienic products.

Jute to the rescue

After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi included it in one of his public speeches, jute based sanitary pads has become the talk of the town in our neighbouring country. People from all sides of India, as well as from this side of the border, are congratulating the IJIRA (Indian Jute Industries Research Association) on this breakthrough.

Rethinking feminine hygiene: Jute based sanitary pads

It’s a breakthrough because, with this, the cost per pad is down to 1-2 Rs, whereas the cost of the regular pads is 8-12 Rs/piece.

It will also dissolve in the soil after dumping, which removes a huge concern for the environmentalists along the way. Not to mention the boost it will give to the dying jute industry of a country that used to have jute as one of its primary crops.

But is this the first time?

Here comes the interesting part. It’s not. 

In Kenya, JaniPad was introduced to keep girls from dropping out of school. It was made of Water Hyacinth which was chosen because of its high water absorbency rate. But the project got shut off due to lack of funding and proper management.

Bangladesh had its efforts too

Afterwards, JaniPad sparked the idea to use Water Hyacinth, along with Cotton, as raw material for pads into a student of BRAC University, Naziba Nayla Wafa.

It dissolved within two weeks of discarding and water hyacinth keeps the absorbency up to the much-needed scale. She had a team of 10 female workers who made these and distributed them among 2000 women in Mohammadpur Geneva Camp.

She used it herself, along with 2 other team members to test it. Naziba wanted to work on it more, but could not due to a number of reasons.

A late limelight

The IJIRA project, Saathi, started more than a year ago. But it only came to light as Modi mentioned it himself. Saathi is even getting fund from the Central Government because the then Minister of Textile, Smriti Irani pursued it herself to save the Jute Industry and promote female hygiene at the same time. So the chance of failure for this project is slimming down. And if it gets to zero, then this will prove a little involvement from the authorities is enough to ensure a safer and better tomorrow for all.

The planet we live in and the womb we come out of- both of them deserve the utmost care. But somehow these are the two things we treat in the most careless manner. We are polluting the Earth knowingly and unknowingly on a daily basis. We are not providing proper accessible hygiene and medical care for the female reproductive system. This is a step that shows it is possible to do both without even taking a dig at the economy. All it needs is the willingness to do so.

I wish the best of luck to Sathi and fingers crossed we learn something from this.

How to wow Bengali dads on Father’s Day

It is not every day when you get to remember what your father is going through to raise you as a better version of himself unless it is father’s day.

We write emotional captions on Facebook, upload cute photos with him and keep thinking it will wow him because the overwhelming response you are getting from your friends is wowing you.

But this probably doesn’t work well on Bengali Dads. Because you can’t convince him into thinking that a touchy caption on Facebook is a good enough reason to be happy on this day.  

Bengali dads have high expectations, remind you that.

So what are the ways you can actually wow your Bengali dads?

Ditch Social Media for a day and cook something for him with effort

How to wow Bengali dads on father’s day

Let’s face it when we are uploading cute pictures with him and writing captions for him which are ultimately read by our friends only and not our dads. We only care about how nicely we put our thoughts into words and how much validation we are getting even though our lives are falling apart here.

But if you really want this day to be only about your father, ditch social media and cook something for him. Let him get assurance that you are not entirely useless. That you can make things happen if you actually want to other than fixing the wifi router and occasionally, his android phone.

Buy him something nice and cute that has functional attributes

How to wow Bengali dads on father’s day

Our dads are probably never buying a new pair of shoes and a new watch for themselves even though he will buy you 3 pair of shoes and 4 sets of new clothes just because you can flex on social media. Dads will not buy their essentials and still be okay with it because dads are absolute sweethearts and all things nice.

We often overlook his needs and hardly care about if his supplies are in an inadequate amount in the house.

On this father’s day, look around for your father’s stuff.

Figure out what he needs new. It could be a shaving kit, a perfume set, a new pair of shoes, a mobile phone, or whatever he might need new.

Surprise him with it, he will probably love the gifts but I’m sure enough that he will probably feel good knowing you’ve taken the time to care about his necessities and cared to buy them with effort.

Just spend some good time with him

How to wow Bengali dads on father’s day

I know that many of us don’t get the time to sit and talk with him even for a while. We always prefer our busyness over his and we feel that it is okay for us to fall asleep because we’re tired whenever he’s home late. Ditch work for a day maybe, take him out for coffee. Or just spend some quality time with him. Talk about how he’s doing and what things he is worried about currently if he looks worried.

Sync yourself to his energy.

You’ll feel more connected to him and his feelings if you’ve been distant for a while.

Show him what you wrote in the captions, on a piece of paper

How to wow Bengali dads on father’s day

A lot of our Dads don’t actually get the whole social media culture and don’t like being on facebook for various reasons.

But they do secretly kind of dig the whole letter or card thing if their child makes it with love and effort. Don’t just post pictures with him on social media and write a caption and expect heart reacts because it’s nice.

The day is all about your father. So instead, write it all on a piece of paper and give it to him on this day. I’m pretty sure he’ll be happier to discover his child’s creativity and choice of words that deserve a thousand heart reacts.

Promise to yourself that you’ll actually work on being a better child  

How to wow Bengali dads on father’s day

This one is more of a continuous process with a long-lasting impact on fathers. Our fathers don’t want anything else but their children to be better and stand up to his expectations in every choice we make in life.

Father’s day is just one day but it should leave an impact on all of us regarding how we should appreciate our fathers’ efforts to run the family and ensure a better future for us.

So let us make better choices, better ourselves for our fathers and their expectations from us. We often tend to forget that as we’re growing up, our parents are getting old so they deserve love, care and support from us a bit more with every passing day.

So, let us become what they want us to be.

Let us give them something to be proud of so that they can feel that their efforts in raising us up are not going in vain.

The battle against our obsession with fair skin

It always seemed perplexing to me that in a country of 16 million people where majority of us are of a darker complexion, we have somehow come to equate beauty with fairness. Starting from young girls and boys to older men and women, this notion has been embedded into our minds and has permeated over the centuries.

The constant slurs

Every brown woman living in Bangladesh can attest to receiving an abundance of unsolicited advice and derogatory comments from strangers to family members over their complexion throughout their lifetime. Maybe it was in the form of a backhanded compliment like “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”; an advice from next-door aunty to try out some skin whitening creams (fair and lovely the undisputed champion); a quick natural homemade remedy from a friend that promised to instantly brighten your skin; a warning from your mother to stay indoors and avoid the sun, and the list goes on.

Seriously, just stop.


Artwork by Nafisa Afsara Chowdhury

The other side isn’t pretty either

Growing up, I personally didn’t hear such remarks myself because I got “lucky” by being born with a lighter complexion in a society that’s obsessed with fairness. But I did experience something else which was equally problematic. People have said things like “ki shundor forsha gayer rong” and “tomake toh foreigner lage” to me, as if those were meant to be compliments. I’m sorry but no, you have got it all wrong. I do not aspire to look like a foreigner, I do not think my lighter skin is somehow a personal victory, and neither do I think that this should be an acceptable form of flattery for any right-minded person.

The ridiculous ads

It shocks me that it is still acceptable to promote fairness products in the 21st century and reiterate the idea that a fairer skin is more desirable than the rest. These ridiculous ads will try to have you believe that if you become a couple of shades lighter, you will finally get that job you want, your family and boyfriend will love you more, all your problems will miraculously go away and you’ll live happily ever after. (Don’t we all wish it were that simple?)

Why are we so obsessed with being “fair and lovely”?

Original concept and Photo by Zainab Anwar. Artwork by Triory.

This unhealthy obsession that we have with fairness is a lot more complex than we often realize. Some may argue that this stems from the remnants of our colonial legacy in South Asia and plays out in the form of internalized colonialism, while others say that this fixation dates even further back in history, dealing with issues of class hierarchy.

It also goes without saying that our deep-rooted patriarchy that constantly objectifies women only helps to perpetuate this enslavement even further.

We also cannot deny that the mass media today contributes towards keeping such insidious ideas alive by feeding us Western beauty standards since eternity.

The damaging impact

Most of us girls grapple with loving ourselves because we were conditioned to believe in these unrealistic beauty standards that were always far from our reach. So many girls like me, around me, were constantly trying to attain this standard of beauty, all the while, rejecting their own brown skin. Leaving them dejected and bathing in self-loathe. Can we really blame them though? We live in a society that constantly tells us that our skin color is “nongra” or “moila”, so trying to feel content in our own skin was never even an option to begin with.

Here are some Bangladeshi women sharing their bitter experience of growing up with brown skin in Bangladesh:

X, a 29-year-old woman from Dhaka-

“I remember when I was a teenager, I’d try all kinds of things on my face hoping to lighten it because I was always made to feel like it wasn’t good enough. Looking back, thinking about all the harmful things that I tried in order to gain validation from this society truly scares me. What makes me even more upset is that I still find myself fighting this battle within me sometimes. Suppose, when I’m wearing a very bright colored outfit, I’ll think to myself  “Is this making me look too dark?” But it’s only now, in my late 20s that I’m turning the conversation around and asking myself, “What’s wrong with looking too dark? Absolutely nothing”. So, thankfully, after years of struggle, I’m in a much more healthy relationship with my own skin now”

Anika, a 23-year-old student from North South University-

“I’ve been fighting this brown skin prejudice since my childhood. I remember when I was in school; I didn’t get accepted as the lead role of a drama because of my “dark skin”. My visits to the parlor were always accompanied with suggestions of bleaching my skin to become “fairer”. It’s not just the people who we love dearly that perpetuate such ideals but it is also embedded within our social institutions. It’s everywhere. And it takes unimaginable strength to unlearn years of such toxic internalization and begin to treat yourself right ”

Dare to love yourself

In a world that constantly reminds us women that the color of our complexion fails to meet some false notion of beauty, just loving yourself and being proud of your skin becomes a revolutionary act for us girls. It means to dismantle these narratives that we’ve been forcefully fed for so long. It means to reclaim our brown skin in all its glory.

So, go on, tell those aunties off, bask in the sun, wear that bright colored outfit you were asked not to wear, put on that red lipstick and own it!