For the 9 days of Navratri, Team ApeCape has something exciting in store for you. We’ve spoken to 9 special Goddesses – everyday, real, human women who inspire us by word and deed! We bring you their stories every day and hope that you love them as much as we enjoyed writing them for you.
Can you change the environment, women’s health, finances and help build the nation with one decision? Today’s Goddess, Nisha, definitely thought she could. In just 5 years, she proved that she could easily do this with her start-up Nari-Yari, which makes menstrual cups. Read how she discovered the joys of waste management, converted the nay-sayers and made life a breeze for thousands of women – both urban and rural. Here is Nisha’s story in her voice!
Understand Waste: The Launchpad
Sometime in 2010, I attended my very first session on waste management. To say it was an eye-opener is an understatement! I started thinking about our extremely casual attitudes towards waste and waste disposal. It starts right from the time we purchase things – marketing has taught us to buy in bulk, whether we need it or not. We don’t think about whether it would decompose in a landfill, or if not, what a better alternative would be.
Around this time, my father had been diagnosed with cancer. Since he led a very healthy, active lifestyle, it came as a shock to us. It made us think deeper about what environmental factors could be carcinogenic and their impact on humanity. A group of us started an initiative in our apartment complex, going from door to door and helping people understand waste. The campaign was a success and made me feel that I wanted to take this to more people in a more significant way.
Menstrual Cups: A Period Transformation
I first heard about the menstrual cup in 2015. At that time, I was working at a field job. This meant that I could not change my pad for over 10-12 hours. I would often be embarrassed about the odour and suffered almost constantly from rashes. Menstrual cups weren’t readily available in India; I got mine from Europe, which cost over Rs. 2500 for a single cup.
It took me 6 months to overcome the mental block that every woman faces when they first consider making the switch. Once I started using it though, there was no looking back! For me, it was a life-changer; health-wise, mentally and for the environment.
Nari-Yari: A Woman’s Best Friend
When my husband and I talked about how expensive the menstrual cup was to export, we felt that would be a blocker for the average Indian woman. Our family had been manufacturing silicone products for over 25 years, and we felt this was the perfect time to start making menstrual cups.
The government had just launched the Make In India campaign, and we felt proud to be part of this national initiative. We were extremely confident of our raw materials and the production process. Our main aim of making cups in India was to ensure increased affordability. Once a product is within reach of the masses, we’ve seen that the benefits of using it outweigh other hesitations. I wanted our name to reflect the Indian vibe, and so Nari-Yari was born.
Sustainable Menstruation Movement
In association with the Rotary club, we have reached out to government schools and introduced teachers to the menstrual cups. One day, while at a session, a worried young girl spoke to her teacher. She had just started her first period, but she thought she had contracted some kind of illness because of a lack of awareness. We knew then that our role needed to be far more than just making and distributing menstrual cups.
We started awareness sessions for kids and sensitized them to the changes in their bodies and the importance of sustainable menstrual products. To introduce viable options, we worked with multiple organizations on-ground and made reusable cloth pads. It was so encouraging and heart-warming to see the uptake and their eagerness to change their lives.
The Demon of Development
Through my work, I’ve seen that the biggest hurdle to switching to a healthier lifestyle to development. It’s not that I’m against it; I just feel that we need to weigh the conveniences that come with development versus the impact they have on the environment and then decide whether it’s worth making that choice.
I’ve worked with women in rural and urban areas and seen specific patterns. In smaller towns and villages, it’s the economics that is a deciding factor. On the other hand, urban women understand environmental impact better now, and that becomes a focus.
When people come back and tell me that they’ve switched to a menstrual cup because I urged them to try it once, it’s a feeling I never get tired of. There was this one girl I remember who had bad rashes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, so cloth pads weren’t a feasible option. I gifted her a cup, and after some months, she made the change. She thanked me for my patience and persistence. She was at menopause, and it was a game-changer to her.
I also feel thrilled when I’m able to convert nay-sayers to champions. They start echoing my words unconsciously because it’s made an impact on them, and it’s such a feeling of validation.
I’m a very stubborn person, and I think this works to my advantage. If something or someone puts an obstacle in a path I’m set on following; I will find a way around it.
The Famed Work-Life Balance
Like other working moms, I constantly have the guilt of not sharing my time evenly. Since what I do needs awareness across the board, I decided to make sure my sons know about my work. They know all about the menstrual cups and feel no shame or taboo. They understand when I need to be at an event and do everything they can to help me out and be part of it.
I do take days off and spend time with family. It helps me unwind and detox. My doggies are also huge stress-busters. Music is the most therapeutic pastime, and I enjoy long drives as well to clear my mind.
Advice to the Goddesses Out There
I know the value of having a dream and pursuing it doggedly. So, whether you are just starting your career or are looking to make a change, follow one mantra – Don’t give up ever! No matter how difficult a journey seems, just go for it. Give it your all because then the entire universe comes together to make it work for you!
Would you like to see the work that Nari-Yari does or catch up with Nisha to spread the word? Follow them on Facebook and Instagram! Read about our other Everyday Extraordinary Goddesses – Shravanthi, Bulbul, Smitha, Jacintha, Anjali and Dr. Veena here!