The Future of Periods: Sakshi's Changemaker Journey
This story was written by Delaney Hammond and was edited for length and clarity.
The dependency on plastics is a massive contributor to the world’s waste problem. Many everyday products, such as water bottles, bags, and utensils, contribute to the unnecessary use of plastics. Menstrual health products, in addition to being heavily stigmatized, are one of these products.
On average, a woman will discard between 250 and 300 pounds of period products over her lifetime. On top of that, it takes between 500 and 800 years for a single sanitary pad to decompose. To address this growing issue, many socially-conscious businesses are inventing alternatives to traditional disposable products. Among these alternatives are reusable pads: they function just like standard sanitary napkins, except they are made of sturdy fabrics so that they can be washed and used again.
Seventeen-year-old Sakshi Vasudev first learned about reusable pads after receiving a set as a present from her father. Excited about her new gift, Sakshi posted about the pads on social media and was immediately flooded with questions: “they were asking, ‘where can you get it? What is it made out of? How do you wash it?’” Sakshi explained. She realized that although many people had never used reusable pads, they were intrigued and eager to know more.
As a student in Hong Kong, Sakshi was also acutely aware of the lack of access to sustainable menstrual products across the city. “I realized that people might be interested in this product, especially when there is only one store in Hong Kong where you can get sets of reusable pads,” Sakshi reflected.
Through further studying the problem, Sakshi learned that Hong Kong was not alone - young girls around the world without proper access to sanitary pads and reproductive health education can miss up to 20% of school days. She was also concerned about the effects of disposable products like sanitary pads on the environment, an urgent concern that must be addressed in the wake of the climate crisis.
Sakshi was encouraged by the idea of sustainably designed pads but disheartened by the limited availability. She wanted to find a way to promote reusable pads and improve accessibility. In 2019, Sakshi launched BamPads!, a youth-led social enterprise to “empower everyone through education and access to sustainable periods.”
To get started, Sakshi decided to sell and market sustainable menstrual pads. The pads come in a variety of vibrant colors and patterns. Constructed out of bamboo and microfleece, the final product is both sustainable and safe for the body. For each set of pads sold, a set of pads is donated to refugee groups in Hong Kong. Sakshi is not only promoting eco-friendly habits for young adults like her but is also expanding access to menstrual products for women across her city.
Once her product was created, Sakshi partnered with a local student-led organization to deliver period products to Nepali women, resulting in a sizable donation of 260 sets of reusable pads to those without consistent access to affordable hygiene products. On top of selling and donating pads, Sakshi has sought to educate others on the benefits of reusable pads. Her team has held several workshops to explore what it means to have a “sustainable period” by educating young people on the importance of environmental sustainability and how to address period poverty. Even with the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Bampads! has continued to host seminars online.
Sakshi is the Founder of Bampads!, but she surrounds herself with people who support her venture. Her parents play a pivotal role in the success of her venture by encouraging Sakshi to put her idea in motion. “Their support is what made me the changemaker that I am today,” said Sakshi. She also gained lots of support from her friends and teachers who consistently purchase her product and share genuinely kind reviews.
She also received support from adult allies outside of her family. Sakshi was connected to Kids4Kids, a transformational nonprofit in Hong Kong that ignites the power of youth to develop social responsibility, take positive action in their community, and support other young people to make the world a better place. Sakshi says, “I got in touch with Kids4Kids when I had to complete 20 hours of community work as I got funding to go to Thailand to teach English for 3 weeks. And through that, I applied for the Action for a Cause competition and have been connected with them since then.” The Kids4Kids team and the founder, Michele Lai, have been transformational by providing a network of other young people and boundless encouragement to young people like Sakshi.
You’re never too young to change the world,” advised Sakshi. “If someone says ‘you’re too young,’ or ‘you can’t do it,’ just continue on your journey, because you don’t know where it’s going to lead you.”
Although Sakshi had many people supporting her business, she also faced her fair share of negativity for her idea. Sakshi says that the “hardest part of putting my idea in motion was dealing with the criticism of others. One of my close friends said that ‘the work you’re doing is not beneficial at all. If you want to help with the environment, why don’t you ask people to use less paper or use less plastic? The thing that you’re doing is not something a lot of people will accept,’” Sakshi recalled.
She also received criticism from people who believed it was wrong to talk openly about something “so taboo like periods.” However, Sakshi did not let this backlash stop her. “Instead of focusing on those who won’t accept [my idea], I said to myself that I should focus on those who are willing to learn about reusable pads,” she explained. By focusing on people that were eager to learn about her product, Sakshi was able to invest more time in those who were more likely to be supportive, and thus create a more positive attitude surrounding her venture.
Today, BamPads! is preparing to send 35 sets of reusable pads to refugee communities in Hong Kong. The pandemic has prevented Sakshi from being able to return to Hong Kong, but travel restrictions do not discourage her. She is still actively promoting Bampads! on social media and through educational workshops. Bampads! has hosted several successful virtual workshops during the pandemic, each activating twenty to thirty participants to be allies for women’s health and environmental conservation. Sakshi’s ability to adapt to any situation has led to her continued success.
Sakshi, as a teenager, is changing the world in countless ways: she is promoting sustainability in an effort to save the planet, she is spreading awareness about a hygienic and safe alternative to traditional period products, and she is helping to end period poverty and destigmatize menstruation in the process. Most importantly, Sakshi's journey shows that everyone can make an impact, no matter how young they are. “You’re never too young to change the world,” advised Sakshi. “If someone says ‘you’re too young,’ or ‘you can’t do it,’ just continue on your journey, because you don’t know where it’s going to lead you.”
No matter what you’re hoping to change, Sakshi exemplifies the idea that everyone can be a changemaker. She started out as a normal seventeen-year-old with an idea, which was amplified with her compassion for others. This idea blossomed into a vibrant venture that has improved the lives of many. Sakshi is a role model for any young person who thinks they cannot make a difference because of their age.
Sakshi is a young changemaker from Hong Kong who is promoting health for both women and the planet. She participated in a youth leadership program hosted by Kids4Kids where she met Michele Lai, a social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow (elected in 2019). Michele founded Kids4Kids to bring young people together to develop their changemakers skills and to create their own social initiatives for helping other young people. Michele found her changemaking power when she was 14 and has been supporting young people like Sakshi and Bailey to find their unique power ever since. Read more about Michele here.