Teaching women and girls to make cloth sanitary pads
Some months ago a discussion started on Nabuur about girls in Kabondo, Kenya not being able to attend school during their period; a common problem in many parts of the developing world. Disposable pads are very expensive and alternatives don't seem to exist for most girls. They often just stay home for the 5-10 days per month that they have they period, rather than be embarrassed. This cuts heavily into their education. ( To see past discussion visit http://www.nabuur.com/en/village/kabondo/project/task/feminine-hygiene-p...)
From these discussions a number of options came up:
One option was cloth, reusable sanitary pads. They are just like disposable ones in shape and look. They snap or button around the underwear and the absorbency is increased or decreased by adding or removing 'liners.'
After some discussion in the community, they decided to give it a try. Nabuur volunteers found patterns that could be made from hand.
Deanna Duke of Goods 4 Girls helped out and rounded up kits from individuals and manufacturers. A total of 70 kits (which included 3-5 liners/pads, a carrying bag and instructions) were gathered.
In July 2008, I had the fortunate opportunity to hand deliver the kits to the girls. Seventy girls from Oriang Girls School and 2 teachers from Got Rateng Primary took part in the project.
It has been nearly 6 months now and we are glad to report things are going fairly well. The girls and teachers reported that they are very happy with the sanitary pads as it saves them the monthly expense.
The next step is to have some of the girls or women in the community learn to make the cloth pads for themselves. The costs are minimal and the supplies are locally available. Basic supplies include:
Cotton (6 oz) or Flannel - 3 yards/8 pads - most females will require between 12-18 pads per month
Snaps or buttons
Needles for sewing
Paper for tracing the patterns
Pattern (which can just be printed and photocopied)
The girls and women would have to be taught how to sew, if they don't already know how, which has a number of other benefits. Some of the women may wish to pursue this as a business opportunity and become a supplier of sanitary pads in the community. This would generate much needed income.
We would like to discuss options and alternatives for sustaining this project and getting it going. While some seed funding may be required, we are ultimately interested in coming up with ideas for a sustainable way to get the girls sanitary pads.