Imagining the future of menstrual care with rural adolescents of Udaipur

Facilitating collective imaginations through participatory design

Somya Sagarika
Jul 15 · 5 min read

Introduction

The future of interaction design workshop was aimed to explore collective imaginations of the future of menstrual care in the rural community of Udaipur. The workshop was conducted in collaboration with Jatan Sansthan Udaipur under the mentorship of Lakshmi Murthy and Naveen Bagalkot. The design research was conducted through the anthropological construct of thinking where decisions were made collectively by the designers and participants using participatory approaches. The workshop was divided into two phases- (1) Ethnographic explorations to understand the community menstrual health and wellbeing from social, cultural, and political perspectives (2) Design space for imagination, speculation, and the making of a gender-neutral product around menstrual care for a more equitable and inclusive future.

Design Brief

“Its year 2028 — there is no shame. Imagine a menstrual care product that helps female during menstruation. The product needs to cater to both household and outdoor activities. Also, what would be the role of the male in such a scenario.”

Outcome and Outputs

The workshop ended on the note of a hackathon which led to the design of a sanitary napkin situated in the year 2028 where shame around menstruation is non-existent. The process of designing artifact helped us to explore the role of a facilitator- exchanging ideas, experiences and information around menstrual health, negotiating design decisions between formally trained designers and participants from the rural background, letting participants take the lead and be aware of the privileged background we hold as designers. The female participants contributed to discussions and shared social norms, stigma, and taboos around menstruation leading to exclusion and discrimination. The activities and sessions were designed as such to encourage the participants to delve into their cultural creative capacities of designing.

The gendered landscape of the menstruation led to the design of menstrual wear Ekatva- representing oneness. With our concept we intended to break the binary construct around menstruation by making a gender-neutral eco-friendly pant which boasts the absorbency up to three regular pads, allowing users to wash- reuse indefinitely, irrespective of their gender. The participants stitched the final design and presented the idea in the form of fashion walk.

Overview of the final outcome and output

Process

1. Understanding the Audience through formal and informal means

Meeting village people and getting things from the market that resonates with the local culture
Teams drawing male and female organs leading to a discussion on the natural process of menstruation

2. Making connections with what we observed

Drawing out the daily routine of women in the villages vs city with the participants, mapping experiences, identifying the commonality and patterns within them

3. Design Space- Curating Imaginations

What are we designing for?

This design addresses current imbalances and injustices observed in the larger ecosystem of menstruation in the context of gender.

Team sharing each other’s understanding of the design brief

Ideation

Design values were then explored by generating ideas. The top three ideas were selected for presentation to the audience for feedback.

Team sharing their ideas

Presenting the most voted ideas

Evaluating the first version of the concepts with the audience

4. Designing the final Concept

Based on the feedback from the audience it was decided that the supporting arguments for greater absorbency of the pad should be supported by looking at technical aspects of natural products like bamboo and banana fibers. One of the participants also suggested that what if the entire pant is made of absorbent material.

Prototyping the final idea

5. Final Design and presentation

The team presenting the final concept

Final Thoughts

The Future of interaction design workshop was overall an interactive space for knowledge exchange, experience sharing, capability building, and exercising creative capabilities in the creation and curation of the design concept. Living in the village, interacting with the community, I came to the understanding that there were many layers to social and cultural aspects of stigma around menstruation. The layers were much complex than what was visible to eyes. While the final outcome was the result of 24hour hackathon, it takes an immense amount of time and constant iteration to make a change in such messy and wicked contexts. From the start and throughout the project, the focus was to actively put forward the lived experiences of the participants and not assume and impose things on the group. The need to constantly question, validating assumptions, and carefully balance the participant’s aspiration and motivation is what makes participatory outcomes desirable.


I would like to thanks Naveen Bagalkot and Lakshmi Murthy for their guidance and valuable feedback. Also, each individual of Jatan Sansthan that enabled and supported us in this journey. I thank my team member Gautham Nayak and Jatan Participants- Moin and Sushma for their constant support and motivation. Feel free to leave comments and feedbacks below.

Somya Sagarika

Written by

Evolving human-centered Designer. Finding meaning in people lives. Trying to be less wrong.

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