In keeping with the theme of climate and health, the Edinburgh Earth Initiative – in a joint venture with Edinburgh Innovations – brings to you the inspiring story of Sanitree, a student enterprise that is spearheading the fight against period poverty and indignity. Here is their story:

We Mean Business Graphic Novel launch

Could you tell us a little bit about how Sanitree started?

In 2017, our co-founder Bharat Singh, a Politics student at the University of Edinburgh, identified persistent period poverty and plastic waste in his hometown of Bhind (North India). In partnership with fellow student Aro, they decided to establish a production centre and community space there, supported by a team of volunteer students in Edinburgh.

In our initial stages, we developed our mission to end period poverty and the stigma surrounding menstruation in a sustainable, collaborative, and ethical way; we believed that menstruation could be an experience that is empowering for people and kind to the planet. This has continued to be the foundation of Sanitree’s operation.

After proving we could establish a self-sustaining model, we connected with our now Managing Director, Ishu Shiva, a menstrual health educator who had been working under an NGO distributing single-use pads to provide support to as many menstruators as possible. However, she quickly realised that providing menstruators with period dignity for one cycle was not creating long term change in their lives, whilst contributing to the plastic crisis in her city. So, Sanitree relaunched in Jaipur, where we developed our product, recruited local beneficiaries, and established a new community hub: the Her Shakti Centre. Sanitree today is an evolution of our first microfinance initiative in Bhind, introducing period care to the community.

What were the early successes that shaped Sanitree into what it is today?

In 2019, Sanitree’s co-founders in Edinburgh came to Jaipur to support Ishu in recruiting beneficiaries for the new Her Shakti Centre. They ensured this process identified the most vulnerable women who would benefit most from this working environment, such as single earners, widowers, or domestic abuse survivors. Alongside this, they met with local government ministers and ensured that the centre would also support our beneficiaries with personal, professional, and practical development opportunities such as mental health support and DIY training. Ishu began to move towards community outreach within slums in and around Jaipur, tackling period stigma and providing reusable period care alternatives for those in need.

In early 2020, Sanitree played a crucial role in supporting Monica Lennon in the free period provision bill, which made Scotland the first country in the world to make period products accessible to everyone! Then when the pandemic hit, global lockdowns forced production to halt, but our donation drives continued to be crucial, allowing women in need to access safe and sustainable period products.

What have been your biggest achievements in the past year?

2022 was an unforgettable year for the Sanitree team! On International Women’s Day Sanitree carried out a donation drive to a local school, sponsored by a local influencer, alongside debuting our new pads at the Jaipur Literature Festival. In March, Ishu was also invited to speak at the Menstrual Management Summit in Chennai, an incredible opportunity alongside some of the people at the forefront of period dignity advocacy. September also marked Sanitree’s 5th birthday, marking a time of reflection on our journey since 2017. We were very excited that this was celebrated by the release of the graphic novel We Mean Business, where Sanitree’s journey was retold by our Co-Founder and Managing Director Ishu, amongst 20 women entrepreneurs across India.

How has being based within Edinburgh helped to shape Sanitree’s journey?

The team at Edinburgh is also extremely busy! Our student led team supports Ishu and the beneficiaries and allows Sanitree to continue to grow. We host many fundraising events, including our club night Heavy Flow, which aims to be an inclusive night of local DJ’s, with all ticket proceeds going straight to Sanitree, as well as ceilidhs, pub quizzes and creative workshops to promote the importance of Sanitree’s mission.

Our team also works hard to further our outreach, ensuring we continuously support the sustainability of Sanitree, tackling stigma around periods and supporting Sanitree’s desire to grow and expand its market. We have frequent discussions with Ishu, allowing us to work collaboratively and support the Her Shakti Centre in whatever way we can. Being in such a progressive city in terms of tackling period poverty allows us to attend exciting events and work alongside people who are continuing to revolutionise the way we talk about menstruation, such as the Period Dignity Roundtable with Monica Lennon that our team attended at the Scottish parliament in November. A year earlier, our co-founder and Project Leaders attended COP26, engaging with local and international activists and businesses on the frontline of the climate crisis.

Combined, our campaigns in Edinburgh and Jaipur foster a collaborative approach to solutions for the global pervasiveness of period stigma.

Do you have any exciting developments on the horizon?

We are looking forward to working with more exciting collaborators, including donation drives in India, as well as various outreach events and research projects. We also have many events coming up this semester, including another Heavy Flow, and a creative writing workshop to encourage the wider student community to get involved in discussion surrounding menstruation and period poverty.

We have recently become a client of 180 Degrees, a consulting firm for non-profits and social enterprises which, we hope, will help us continue to grow and expand our reach in the year ahead. We frequently host stalls at the university campus, where you can buy our period pads, or – even better – come chat to us and find out more!

Sanitree is about to launch their 2023/4 recruitment cycle, and this could be a great opportunity to join their team and continue their excellent work! To find out more, attend their Get Involved in Sanitree event on 28th March, 6:30 pm, at the Student Enterprise Hub. Find out more about the event here:

Give Sanitree a shout out and show them some love by following them on Instagram (@sani.tree) and visiting their website (