Menstrual Hygiene Day celebrated on May 28, is an annual global event to raise awareness about the challenges women and girls face due to menstruation and to highlight solutions that address these challenges. This year the theme was ‘Periods in Pandemic’, which highlighted the challenges faced by women during menstruation have only worsened during the on-going pandemic.
It is very well known that menstruation is a natural part of the reproductive cycle, but what some may not realize is that in many countries, the lack of information and knowledge about menstrual hygiene is still a taboo and a lot of misinformation about menstruation keeps on revolving.
Soothe Healthcare operates in the Women Hygiene space, the sector is a duopoly with J&J and P&G currently controlling the market. Soothe owns the brand “Paree” which is India’s first sanitary napkin that absorbs in 3 seconds with Saina Nehwal as the brand ambassador, who also is an investor in the company. Paree is currently available Pan India with distribution across channels: Retail outlets, Modern Trade outlets, Pharmacies, and leading e-commerce portals along with strong distribution tie-ups in place with Walmart, Metro, Reliance etc.
In an exclusive conversation with Medianews4u, Paridhi Mantri, Manager – Consumer Insights & Product Innovation at Soothe Healthcare spoke about this initiative and shared some valuable insights.
Menstruation still remains a taboo in many parts of the world even today despite efforts to erase the stigma associated with periods, how is Paree ensuring to spread knowledge and awareness on this?
We are a progressive brand that works towards starting a conversation on ‘the many avatars of the progressive Indian woman’. We believe that women are the backbone of society, the ultimate caregivers, and yet she always prioritizes others’ needs over her own.
We are committed to breaking the social stigma around Menstruation by encouraging women to prioritize their needs, their health first, and that is why we launched the campaign #Shefirst. Even during this pandemic, our standpoint was that women’s hygiene is as essential as food. However, conversations on menstrual hygiene products were muted and women’s personal care went unnoticed. Being a women-centric company, we felt compelled to kick-start the conversation about Women’s health as poor menstrual hygiene causes UTI/RTI infections.
We are committed to making menstrual hygiene products available to all women amidst the lockdown, because we believe that #PadsAreEssential and are a basic requirement for women to stay healthy and free from infections during their menstrual cycle, and access to them, especially during a pandemic, is important.
Are there any initiatives done by Paree on the occasion of World Menstrual Hygiene Day?
Yes, on the occasion of World Menstrual Hygiene Day this May 28th, 2020, Paree in its first-ever HR Landmark announced, ‘Period Leave for its entire women workforce’ with the #SheFirst and #PareePeriodLeave initiative. The brand thought of this initiative because although we have sanitary pads for women during their Heavy Flow, we also need to keep in mind the period cramps, PMS, and the discomfort felt during a period.
The policy extends a one-day period of leave per month that allowed women the option to either take the day off (paid leave) for factory and sales staff or work from home for corporate employees. This is was not a mandatory leave and the choice to avail it is entirely with the employee.
As a women-centric brand whose overall workforce comprises of 40% women, with 80% in Corporate office, the CEO’s direct management team includes 64% of women, our vision is to create a more inclusive and women-friendly environment, our goal is to emerge as a brand that women trust and an organization that upholds the well-being of women.
This move is a progressive step towards keeping it real when it comes to period-related issues like the physical or emotional discomfort that a woman might experience during her periods and how the corporate sector can come together to make workplaces more conducive for their women employees. We wish to promote an open and frank corporate culture where both men & women, at all levels of management talk openly and freely about Period. And yes, we are the pioneers and a step ahead in terms of innovative & progressive decisions when it comes to constructing a modern & a progressive India together.
Paree did this campaign called ‘SheFirst’, how well was that campaign accepted by women and the response that you received for it?
The brand reached out to every woman especially in this time of need to ensure that their health is prioritized during this pandemic. Through the outreach, we got to meet and associate with many strong and progressive women who reinforced our belief that we just need to get out of their way for them to shine in their moments of glory. Associating with numerous organizations to maximize our distribution, 30,000 women benefited through the campaign and were able to access healthier menstrual hygiene practices.
To that effect, we worked with Law & Order officials & other State Govt. bodies and brought the issue to the forefront by starting an advocacy campaign #SheFirst and #PadsAreEssential – to provide Paree sanitary pads at no cost to those in need owing to lockdown. With over 200,000 pads distributed, we received overwhelming support and response from the public.
Moreover, it actually took an Indian brand to stand for Indian women’s needs and prioritize her first, which was later followed by all other MNCs and this became a great movement. Thus, we not only pioneered in our thoughts but were also able to be the torchbearers for the idea of #SheFirst and #PadsAreEssential in the industry.
Through associations with various organizations both government and private like CII-IWN, Rasoi-On-Wheels, Punjab Police, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights- the Govt of NCT and Municipal Corporation of Gurugram who helped us with distribution and maximized our outreach, Paree distributed pads across states – Delhi, Gurgaon, Punjab, Rajasthan MP and others.
We also roped in celebrity shareholders and women influencers to amplify our message that menstrual hygiene is a priority. Some of the Sheroes that supported our initiative through their voices on social media are Ms.Gurpreet Kaur Deo, IPS- ADGP- Punjab Police, Saina Nehwal, Garima Avtar, Manika Badhwar (Co-Founder, Rasoi On Wheel), Rinki Dhingra (Chairwoman CII-IWN).
It is easy to talk about empowerment & being progressive, what requires is real thought leadership to walk this talk.
From girls missing out on school to period shaming through the media, we’ve still got a long way to go for menstruation equality, what are your views on this?
We can talk about how women put themselves last when in fact she needs to put herself first when it comes to her health. I am hopeful that every child, not only girls but boys as well be taught and receive the right knowledge about menstruation and that is what is equality in my eyes. I believe teaching and grooming children right from childhood is the best way to beat harmful societal norms.
However, the brand’s endeavor is to teach the girl child from the very beginning that there is no harm in putting her needs and herself first.
Do you think that schools and institutions in today’s time are really giving out the actual importance of menstrual hygiene and education to young girls and women?
Schools and institutions fail to give importance to menstrual hygiene, and that was the point of #SheFirst as we wanted to bring out women’s health conversations to the forefront. Educating young girls is vital, however, another aspect that is important is the rate of participation of women workforce to those of men. According to a McKinsey report, if the rate of women’s participation grows equal to that of men, the country’s GDP will see an increase of 26%, and I think that is something we need to highlight.
Schools and education must play a pivotal role in bringing this paradigm shift through classroom education, awareness programs, and focused infrastructure development.
Further, it needs to be strongly rooted education that a girl shouldn’t shy away from focussing on her health and hygiene needs & voicing it out openly. This will go a far way in making our young girls confident & independent.
What message would you give out to young girls and women?
The message is simple, do not be ashamed of putting your needs first. Your need is as important as anyone else’s in the family & society. On the day of Heavy flow, there is Paree heavy flow pads, but when you have PMS/Cramps, you do not need to go out and win the world in the proverbial ‘white pants.’ Take a day off, stop making excuses to your boss & work from home, #KeepItReal.
Any key learnings that you would like to share?
The Lockdown has shown us that men can participate in household chores & attend to their work at the same time. These were earlier mutually exclusive. The pandemic has in a sense created equality between men and women by demolishing the stereotypes of office work and housework. In this context, women’s contributions as the backbone of the family are duly recognized now and need to be front and center because at Paree we believe the next decade belongs to women in India.