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India

 

About the Implementing organization

Aakar Innovations

Country: India

Year of establishment: 2011

Type of organization: Indigenous group or organization, Other

Website: http://www.aakarinnovations.com

Description

Aakar Innovations is solution provider in menstrual hygiene with a mission to provide rural Indian women with 100% Compostable-Eco-friendly, affordable and effective sanitary protection and sustainable livelihood opportunities. Aakar became the first company in India to provide Govt. of India Lab certified 100% compostable sanitary napkins, known as Anandi Eco+. Aakar deploys Anandi by setting up village level micro-enterprises which are owned and operated by women to produce these pads, All units are led & run by women groups only. Aakar’s social arm tackle the root of the problem lack of awareness. We believe that it is a human rights violation to neglect the need to manage menstruation. We raise awareness through education regarding awareness through education regarding menstrual hygiene in order to empower communities to make informed choices. We achieves this by integrating the many contextual factors that surround menstrual hygiene such as education, sanitation, disposal, and waste management into its creative and informative curriculum.Our partners include Govt. of Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, CSR clients include BPCL, Pidilite, CERA, Manipal Foundation and many NGO, Multilateral agencies including UN orgs, WASH United, WSSCC, British Council, Rotary Club,AIIMS-ICMR etc. Aakar operates in 12 states in India & 5 countries in Africa and Nepal and employs 600+ women in 30+ micro enterprises. We fulfil 6 out of 8 Millennium Development Goals & 12 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations through our initiative.

Nature Element

Wetlands︱Rivers︱Grasslands︱Drylands

Type of Action

Ecosystem protection︱Sustainable use of natural resources︱Awareness building and education︱Nature-based alternatives to a carbon-intensive economy: green entrepreneurship

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods︱Health︱Sustainable consumption and production︱Partnerships

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

        

Environmental Impacts

Every women or girls generates 150kgs of harmful menstrual waste while using conventional sanitary pads which are` full of plastics, toxic chemicals. Burning these pads also creates toxic fumes. Rag pickers also gets infections while segregating these waste. During the preparation of SAP more than five hazardous and toxic chemical reagents are used. Traces of their presence with the used SAP may cause serious infections to the users as well as pollute the environment. With ~35% penetration- 121 million girls uses ~8 commercially available, plastic based sanitary napkins every month- a minimum of 12.3 billion pads disposed annually are making their way to urban sewerage systems, and landfills, rural fields and water bodies in India, it would be 900000 tons if all women use pads.Our pads don’t use any harmful chemicals like SAP or plastics and converts into manure saving environment in huge way & follows the Compostable American Standard ASTM 6400 & European Standard EN 13432.


CLIMATE IMPACTS

Commercially available sanitary pads are made out of plastics & harmful chemicals. Generally the pads are either dumped or incinerated. The study reveals the toxins released after incineration of the napkins have multitude of harmful effects, even with the smallesr of exposures. For example, the fumes cause respiratory diseases, exposure to carcinogens and mutagens, hormonal diseases, fertility diseases. The burning of plastic polymer based pads, generates free radicals and other harmful gaseous substances (like, ethylene oxide, sulphur dioxide, etc).These disintegration products on inhaling or contact with skin of living organism may causes cancer and other diseases.According to WHO incineration of sanitary waste should be done at temperatures above 800 degrees (Sahoo-2015). Most of the incinerators in India works within 200-250 degree Centigrade temperature which leaves toxic fumes in the environment while incineration. Our pads becomes part of soil & manure in composting conditions with no harmful effects.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Our solution have potential to reduce 900,000 tons of toxic menstrual waste if 350 million women & girls start using commercial plastics based sanitary pads. Currently 12.3 billion pads are disposed annually in India. This waste also effect our water bodies, rivers even ocean & animals, fishes. While incinerating these creates toxic fumes which pollutes the air badly which leads to several diseases. With our solution we not only reduce the plastic waste in huge way along-with toxic air pollution we provide a sustainable, green, affordable solution to a necessity of 50% global population, at their doorstep while creating livelihood opportunities for unskilled, illiterate rural & slum women therefore empowering them & their families.


RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

~12-14rural women will be benefiting by getting sustainable livelihood (~500USD/month for 4 hours per day work) for them in the mini-factories at their own villages/slums.

-20-25 women/unit to sell sanitary pads to village women at their door-step & earn sales commission

~5000 women & girls across villages, small towns, urban slums by getting affordable (0.55$/pack of 8 pads), quality 100% compostable sanitary pads at their door-step.

-women &girls will be aware of healthy menstrual practices through our behavioral change programs

Village women don’t get employment opportunities in at the places & they also have to manage their own household. In the mini-factories, they spend only 4-5 hours a day and earn wages as well as profit share which helps them to support their family, pay for their children’s education and fulfill their personal financial needs. It empowers them in several ways & their status within family grows a lot in male dominated society. The same applies for sales women who spend few flexible hours/week.Women working in the units and engaged in sales earns sustainable livelihood out of our initiative. With this earnings respect in their families, society increases a lot & difference with men reduces drastically. Women are treated equally with men. Earnings from the units helps most of their families to come out of poverty and fulfils their basic needs. On the other hand, our product helps girls to attend school during menstruation, (23% school drop out among girls happens because of not having access to sanitary pads- a UNICEF Study in India) and reduces the number of girls who drop out of school. This is also true for working women who loses part of their monthly earnings, daily earnings as 4-7 days a month they can’t go for work.


REDUCED INEQUALITIES

Women working in the units and engaged in sales earns sustainable livelihood out of our initiative. With this earnings respect in their families, society increases a lot & difference with men reduces drastically. Women are treated equally with men. Earnings from the units helps most of their families to come out of poverty and fulfils their basic needs. On the other hand, our product helps girls to attend school during menstruation, (23% school drop out among girls happens because of not having access to sanitary pads- a UNICEF Study in India) and reduces the number of girls who drop out of school. This is also true for working women who loses part of their monthly earnings, daily earnings as 4-7 days a month they can’t go for work.


GENDER EQUALITY

Our solution is addressing directly through women & girls-- it’s a program for women, by women & done through women. Women in the mini-factories produce the pads, another set of women sells the pads and women & girls get affordable, eco-friendly pads at their doorstep. Women working in the units and engaged in sales earns their livelihood out of this. They became independent, manage & spend their own money as they wish to spend including their child’s education. Respect within their family goes up drastically. Our beneficiaries have taken up life insurance, health insurance from earnings from the unit. Most of them didn’t even have bank accounts before they joined the unit. Our initiative empowers women life in various ways. Our product helps girls to attend school during menstruation, (23% school drop out among girls happens because of not having access to sanitary pads- a UNICEF Study in India) and reduce girls school drop out, same applicable for working women who looses part of their monthly earnings, daily earnings as 4-7 days a month they can’t go for work.




SOCIAL INCLUSION

Our solution enables inclusion of different age, gender and indigenous groups. We are working for many marginalised communities, including tribals, sex-workers, persons with disabilities as workforce. Our products are a necessity of every women & girls between age group of 10/11-45/50 years of menstruating age. Men & boys are also involved through our awareness program as we educate them the importance of menstrual hygiene and it’s benefits for them and society. They, in turn, support their daughters, wife, sisters, female friends financially to buy pads and within family/society to tackle unscientific myths, taboos, cultural mis-beliefs etc.

Scalability

We currently work in 12 states in India with 30+ production units involving 500+ women as workforce in the units. We want to scale our solution to all states in India and developing, under developed countries across the world. We are looking for more Govt, Self Help Groups, NGOs, and CSR partners to scale this initiative. We always work with a local partner in communities as this is big taboo topic across the globe & building community trust is very important, local partners also helps us to better monitor the project. The Govt. and CSR partners supports the units with initial start-up funds. Some of the units are also started by taking bank loans by the SHGs and NGOs.

Replicability

We are also running our pilot units in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda & Nepal. We are also using indigenous materials like banana fiber in Uganda, water hyacinth in Kenya from Victoria Lake to replace absorbent pine wood pulp which contains 80-90% materials of any sanitary pad. Our intention is to localize materials as much as possible to reduce cost and create use of natural waste materials. Our solution can be replicated anywhere in the world.

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