We sat down with Sanitree to discuss everything periods and sustainability

Because there’s no ‘I’ in ‘uterus’ but there is an ‘us’

Anyone with a period knows how disruptive and uncomfortable your monthly visit from Aunty Flo can be. A student-run social enterprise, Sanitree believes people around the world should have the same access to menstrual products as we are so lucky to get in Scotland.

I sat down with them following the celebration of their five-year anniversary to discuss what they’re doing to help tackle period poverty both in the UK and in Jaipur, India, and here’s what they had to say.

What is Sanitree?

As the name suggests, Sanitree works to provide period dignity to those who would be otherwise unable to afford menstrual products by giving them reusable pads that can last up to two years.

“We have a production base in Jaipur and employ seven beneficiaries to make reusable and biodegradable pads to sell in UK and India. We also donate products to those who can’t afford to purchase them, providing period dignity for at least two years, the life span of reusable pads.” 

What inspired the creation of Sanitree?

The Main Library is usually the place where dreams and ambitions come to die. However, for Martha and Bharat it was quite the opposite.

When the pair met outside the library in George Square they got talking about their experiences in India and quickly discovered a shared interest in ending period poverty, having both seen it in action.

Bharat had seen the detrimental effect it had on the people in his hometown, Bhind, and wanted to set up a social enterprise in Edinburgh.

He met fellow student Martha, who had spoken to Ishu in Jaipur – a woman with a passion for creating something similar and helping women gain financial independence.

Together they founded Sanitree with a mission to end period poverty both at home in Edinburgh and in Jaipur. 

How does Sanitree incorporate sustainable practices in its products and production line?

“Sustainability is super important to Sanitree and it’s one of the key things we factor into the production of our reusable pads.

“Ishu was involved in donation drives in an NGO she founded a few years ago but they were only donating single use pads to women. She wanted to bring that ethos into Sanitree, whilst bringing more of a focus on sustainability.”

The enterprise focuses on environmental sustainability by ensuring the reusable pads are 100 per cent biodegradable once the steel poppers are removed. They also focus on social sustainability by providing a safe space for employees in Jaipur to hone their skills.

There is also a strong focus on fostering a sense of community and solidarity both with the members in Edinburgh and the women who work in Jaipur.   

Why do you think period poverty isn’t seen as a big issue in the UK?

“A lot of our misconceptions around period poverty come from racism and colonial legacies that are intertwined in our society still.

“Often people don’t believe, or want to believe, that the forms of poverty that are prevalent in less wealthy countries are also prevalent in the UK.

“Thats why we have a base in the UK and in India to show we’re trying to tackle these issues equally in both of these geographic spheres.

“Thankfully, more awareness is being raised about period poverty such as the Free Periods campaign which increased awareness of how much of an issue it is both in the UK and the world.

“A lot of charities that usually work in Western Africa are having to refocus their efforts to the UK as over the course of a year, hundreds of thousands of children in the UK miss school because of period poverty.

“However, progress is being made with Amika George helping to repeal the tax on period products and the Scottish 2020 Period Products Act which saw state schools in Scotland schools being obligated to provide free period products to all their students.”

What would the world look like if all countries had the same laws as Scotland?

“I believe this would be monumental and would impact all aspects of society as period poverty infringes on everything from access to education and the workplace.

“Stigma really underpins a lot of period poverty so having pads and tampons easily accessible and out on display really helps to remove some of that stigma.

“Thankfully, we seem to be seeing a global trend towards ending the stigma around menstruation.”

How can people at home get involved?

“Great question! We have events every semester such as our Heavy Flow club night, which prioritises women and non-binary DJs.

“If you want to get more involved in the organisational side of things, we are often recruiting so check out social media for available roles.

“We’re always looking for people to help with our podcast and blog too.

We’re also open to finding other outreach avenues, so if you know any companies looking to donate or charities who can help, let us know.”

Cover picture Via Instagram @sani.tree

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