Group promotes virtues of handmade sanitary towels

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 3

A grassroots organization yesterday said it has launched a nationwide campaign to promote handmade sanitary towels that it believes will enable women to deal with menstruation in a more personalized way.

Women should have a more positive view of menstruation, which is traditionally perceived as a taboo topic for discussion in Taiwan, according to the Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop, which is working with Nepalese women to sell their handmade pads.

“We need to reverse the idea promoted by TV ads that menstruation is all about using disposable pads and painkillers,” workshop founder Claire Lin said. “These highly commercialized products have distanced women from themselves.”

Lin said women have been conditioned to downplay how their periods affect their lives by purchasing products that promise a quick and convenient solution.

By having women make their own napkins, they will have an opportunity to observe their needs during menstruation and take care of them in a way that caters to their individual needs, she said.

The campaign aims to help women learn to pay greater attention to their bodies and “develop a sense of ownership.”

Lin said that her foundation has traveled from Taipei to Hualien County to deliver speeches and demonstrate handmade sanitary napkins from India, Canada and South Korea.

The response has been positive, she said, adding that about 100 people — both men and women — have participated in the events, with some committing to purchasing or making sanitary pads.

Lin drew inspiration for the idea during a trip to India two years ago when she saw female villagers use worn-out clothes to make their own sanitary towels, and she hopes to draw on the practice to break down the stigma surrounding menstruation.

The campaign could also help contribute to environmental sustainability, Lin said, because sanitary napkins made of cotton decompose faster.

The next major event in the campaign will be a do-it-yourself event in Hualien on Saturday where participants will be given step-by-step instructions on how to make the pads and learn methods of keeping them clean, she said.