Beyond Money
Empowerment through Feminine Hygiene
Eco Femme gets women to switch from disposable to washable or eco-friendly products, helping underprivileged women get access to cloth-pads
 
Eco Femme, Auroville Village Action Group. AVAG, cloth-pads, self-help groups, SHGsEco Femme is the effort of a small team of volunteers who live and work at Auroville, the international community in Puducherry, to start rural social enterprises that empower marginalised Indian women and connect women globally. In 2010, the founding team, comprising Kathy Walkling, Jessamijn Miedema, Anita Budhraja and Anbu Sironmani, was motivated help the Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG), an NGO in Villipuram district (Tamil Nadu). 
 
The idea was to create livelihood opportunities for AVAG’s self-help groups (SHGs) by making washable cloth-pads and selling them to women for use during their menstrual periods. The pads are designed to be affordable (for women with limited means), durable and reusable. The challenge was to encourage women to break free of media-driven preference for disposable products and get them think about eco-friendly alternatives like cloth-pads—not merely in India but around the world.  Laura O’ Connell of Eco Femme discusses the business model as follows: “As the wheels turned, an operational model became clear: women tailors would stitch high-quality cloth-pads and they would be sold to stores and individuals around the world at a profitable price; international sales would include an additional Rs80, which would allow Eco Femme to ‘gift’ a pad to an adolescent girl through a menstrual health education programme (gifted pads would be grouped together to make a kit of four). In this way, as our international sales would grow, so would our impact on the ground in Tamil Nadu, through the Pad for Pad Programme, and eventually to other states. Additionally, we would provide washable cloth pads at a subsidised rate to women who cannot afford the premium rate. These subsidised pads are available on request or when requested by NGOs working with women and girls.”
 
Over time, the team moved from being a donor-funded organisation to a self-sustaining one. Eco Femme hopes to find a way to simultaneously create livelihood opportunities for women members of AVAG’s SHGs and to financially support AVAG’s work with rural individuals and communities. According to Eco Femme’s website, AVAG remains the umbrella organisation under which it works; AVAG also hosts it in their office and helps organise the production of washable cloth-pads. AVAG help Eco Femme’s menstrual education seminars with its women’s SHGs and spread awareness about hygiene.
 
The group is not worried about obtaining ongoing funding; Laura points out, “We believe that current work on menstrual hygiene in India (and around the world) has opened a potent space for reflection on the very nature of development work and what it means to be a sustainable business.” Eco Femme hopes to fill this space by being a locally inspired and guided initiative that allows women and girls to live healthily and with dignity. 
 
In January 2014, Eco Femme entered into a relationship with Dasra, an organisation that proactively brings philanthropists and social entrepreneurs together to enhance their ability to foster change. This relationship has given it the much needed business development support.
 
Finally, Laura confides happily, “In this way, we are a hybrid organisation with both for-profit and not-for-profit areas of work. The profits from one fund the work of the other.” 
 
The parting message for women readers from Eco Femme is “if well washed, sun-dried and stored in a clean place, cloth-pads are perfectly viable and healthy for MHM (menstrual hygiene management).” Those who are environment conscious, should remember that disposable sanitary napkins are not eco-friendly.
 

 

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COMMENTS

Narendra Doshi

1 year ago

A potenial leapfrogger idea for implementation, especially in India. This small healthy step can substanially reduce medica costs and even deaths.

Book Review of ‘The Aspirational Investor’
Glowingly recommended by two Nobel Laureates, it falls short
 
I have read many books on investing but have not come across one with such glowing recommendations. Praise for The Aspirational Investor by Ashvin B Chhabra comes from five extraordinary people. One is Dr Harry Markowitz known for his pioneering work on modern portfolio theory who won the Nobel Prize in 1990. Jim Simons, one of the top traders in the world, is a mathematician who applied himself to studying pattern recognition and now runs Renaissance Technologies which manages $25 billion. He says that this book is an “original programme to guide an individual.” Glowing endorsements also come from Eric Maskin, Nobel winner in 2007, as well as Burton Malkiel and Charles 
D Ellis, two seminal writers on investing. What is so great about this book? 
 
Chhabra brings some fresh thinking to financial planning. He advocates that investors should create a three-tier portfolio. The first, called essential portfolio, will help you protect your current lifestyle and  should be invested in safe products. The second, labelled important, should be to help meet long-term goals such as retirement. This should be invested in market-linked products. The third portfolio is aspirational portfolio where you should put high-risk products. This is fine in theory. How does one implement it? Chhabra outlines seven steps for this purpose.
 
Step1: Outline Your Goals: Categorise your goals as essential, important and aspirational. A young couple, at an early stage in their financial life, might have goals that include savings for college, owning a home and starting a business; while a wealthy retired couple may have only two goals: maintaining their lifestyle and leaving a legacy.
 
Step2: Goals into Cash Flows: Put numbers to your goals. Quantify the total amount needed today for virtually any goal using one easy formula: amount needed divided by the number of years. If you do this every year, you eliminate the complications of inflation-adjusted cost.
 
Step3: Create Your Wealth Allocation Snapshot: Next, put together everything you own and everything you owe. “This is the step where you will organise your assets and liabilities across the personal risk, market risk, and aspirational risk buckets” and place them in appropriate buckets. 
 
Step4: Assess Your Risk Allocation: Chhabra now wants you to do the right risk allocation across your safety, market, and aspirational portfolios. Can you? As Albert Einstein had said, “everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.” Sure enough, Chhabra’s approach breaks down at this stage. He writes, “Alas, there are no exact answers, but there are good guidelines. Your optimal allocation depends on a variety of objective considerations and should strike a balance between factors such as your age and earning potential, your total current wealth, and the ratio of your assets to the amount you need to sustain your lifestyle. Subjective factors such as your goals and your ability to bear losses are also key factors.” 
 
Chhabra goes on to say, “A thorough analysis of your optimal risk allocation must take into account both your financial ability and your psychological ability to bear losses. If you have no ability or desire to take on risk—or, conversely, you have a high tolerance and ability to take on risk—then either a conservative or an aggressive risk allocation may be warranted, defined by the degree to which you allocate assets on a relative basis to your safety portfolio or your aspirational portfolio.” Can anyone do this by oneself? No.
 
Step5: Implement Asset Allocation and Portfolio Diversification: Just as the goals of each risk bucket are different, so, too, are the securities that you will hold within them, as well as the way each portfolio is constructed. Once again, hard for individuals to do it.
 
Step6: Analyse & Stress Test: Chhabra asks his readers to put their portfolio through the following tests: market meltdown test, loss of employment test, sustainability test, aspirational goals test, etc. This, too, is impossible for an individual to handle.
 
Step7: Review and Rebalance: If you are able to take the six steps, you would then have to take the last step which is an annual exercise to keep your finances on track. 
 
Given how much the book is hyped up on the jacket and the recommendations the author has obtained, all this is a bit of a let-down. Perhaps financial planners may have some use of this book. 

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COMMENTS

Nilesh KAMERKAR

12 months ago

Another excellent review Mr. Basu.

It appears more will go into reading of this book than you can get out of it

Nifty, Sensex, Bank Nifty may rally, if Greece issue is resolved – Thursday closing report
A close of Nifty above 8,400 would be bullish
 
We had mentioned in Wednesday’s closing report that NSE’s CNX Nifty will be under pressure until it regains 8,440. However, the Indian stock market reversed direction and closed with marginal losses, proving that the medium term trend is an uptrend.
 
 
The top gainers and losers on shares of major indices are given in the table below:
 
 
Negative global cues emanating from China and Greece countered the positive sentiments surrounding the upcoming first quarter (Q1) results and led the 30-stock Sensex to close 114 points down on Thursday.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex closed Thursday 114.06 points or 0.41% down after the day's trade. The Sensex touched a high of 27,798.13 points and a low of 27,540.60 points in the intra-day trade.
 
The wider 50-scrip Nifty also closed in red. It was down 34.50 points or 0.41% at 8,328.55 points.
 
Analysts said that after the opening session, markets remained range-bound. However, they soon slipped into negative territory, due to the heavy sell-off in information technology (IT) counters ahead of TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) results. 
 
Market observers also pointed out that the investor confidence was shaken a day after the barometer index lost 484 points due to fears of a Chinese stock markets meltdown and the stalemate in the Greek debt crisis.
 
However, the positive bias is being cancelled-out by the negative international cues from China and Greece. 
 
Even the sharp fall in the light sweet crude oil of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures and options index on Wednesday, which pegged a barrel at $50, failed to cheer the markets. 
 
The India markets which depend on Brent crude oil index are also affected by the price movements of the WTI.
 
On Friday, the major trigger for the markets will be the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data.
 
During Thursday's intra-day trade, healthy buying was observed in capital goods, healthcare and bank stocks. 
 
However, the IT, oil and gas, automobile, technology, entertainment and media (TECK) and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) scrip came under intense selling pressure.
 
The S&P BSE capital goods index augmented by 344.53 points, healthcare index extended-gains by 23.82 points and bank index rose by 21.32 points.
 
The S&P BSE IT index plunged by 198.47 points, oil and gas index receded by 199.54 points, automobile index plummet by 105.96 points, TECK index was lower by 91.32 points and FMCG index was down by 44.87 points.
 
The major Sensex gainers during Thursday’s trade were: BHEL, up 3.59% at Rs264.35; Larsen and Toubro (LT), up 2.39% at Rs1,847.50; Hindalco Inds, up 2.21% at Rs.104; Hero MotoCorp, up 2.05% at Rs2,605.40; and Bharti Airtel, up 0.83% at Rs432.90.
 
The major Sensex losers were: Vedanta, down 4.86% at Rs139; TCS, down 2.80% at Rs2,521.40; Bajaj Auto, down 2.33% at Rs2,513.95; Infosys, down 2.04% at Rs937.70; and Tata Motors, down 1.73% at Rs398.15.
 
Among the Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei was up by 0.60%, China's Shanghai Composite Index gained by 5.79%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose by 3.73%.
 
In Europe, the London FTSE 100 index was up by 1.08%, the French CAC 40 was higher by 2.11% and Germany's DAX Index gained by 1.92% at the closing bell in India.
 
The closing values of select world indices are given in the table below:
 
 
Among European indices, DAX was at 10,948.86, up 1.91% and FTSE 100 was at 6,562.69, up 1.11%. Athex Composite Share Price Index was at 797.52, up 2.03%. US index futures were marginally in the red.

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