Reusable Sanitary Pads

     

Some things that we take for granted like sanitary pads could determine the future of girls and women in some communities of the developing countries. The objective of TVT Reusable Sanitary Pads initiative is to give hope for a brighter future to women and girls in such situations. As the name implies, reusable sanitary pads are not disposed off after use but instead they are washed and reused and with good care they can last up to one year.

Latest Projects on Reusable Sanitary Pads


It is well known fact, that educating girls is one way of contributing to fight against poverty, building sustainable economies and contributing to healthy families in the developing countries. Unfortunately, even in countries where primary education is free and secondary education is subsidized by the governments like in Kenya, girls especially in the rural areas have continued to perform poorly compared to the boys. There are many factors that contribute to this alarming trend. They include absenteeism and drop out problems among the girls in the rural areas. Dreams of girls from poor families are sadly shelved due to challenges related to menstruation, early pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS. HIV infection rates in girls are 4 times that of boys the same age mainly because girls from poor families engage in sex at an early age as a way of earning a living.

 
School drop out rate for girls has partly been linked to inability to afford sanitary pads. Therefore, by supporting local women groups to undertake self-supporting locally produced and environmentally-sound reusable sanitary pads, TVT is increasing the chances of improving school attendance rate and as a result academic performance for rural girls. TVT reusable sanitary pads initiative was motivated by the sad reality of getting to know women and girls, in areas where TVT has projects, who are using newspaper cuttings, leaves, grass, old rugs, sponges and virtually anything at their disposal during their menstruation periods. In some communities women are confined to secluded houses until their period days are over. Most of the girls in rural schools, like the ones pictured on this site, can not afford to buy sanitary pads, napkins, cotton wool or any other form of protective supplies to use during their menstrual periods. This forces them to feign sickness and skip school when they are menstruating. This implies that girls in rural schools miss classes at least five days in a month which impacts negatively on both their academic performance and self esteem. Some times boys tease, humiliate and make fun of the girls who accidentally soil their clothes, which leads to the unlucky girl dropping out of school due to embarrassment. Their mothers, aunties, sisters and other female relatives are not in any better position to afford to buy pads for themselves and as such they go through the same suffering when they have their own monthly periods.

Through the generous support of individuals and organizations, TVT has initiated a project to produce reusable sanitary pads called Villachic, through women groups in each village. The project targets women, teachers and girls and equips them with skills to produce their own sanitary pads and sell them to the community thus contributing to health and hygiene of the entire region. The project of Villachic reusable pads is addressing problems of rural villages in the most practical ways. Thus TVT is not only contributing to girls’ education through reduction in drop out rates and absenteeism but it has also introduced women to a healthy way of addressing their menstruation related problems. It has enabled women to rediscover their potential to earn income and provide for their families. By producing their own reusable sanitary pads, supported communities are creating businesses, expanding their income base, protecting environment and offering employment to local residents. In addition, risks of being infected by HIV are reduced as women have an option to provide to their families as opposed to engaging in commercial sex business. Furthermore, through the income earned from sale of the sanitary pads, families are able to take care of the relatives with HIV/AIDS.

Benefits of Using Villachic Reusable Sanitary Pads

Compared to the disposable sanitary pads, Villachic sanitary pads are environmental friendly and economical. They are soft and comfortable to wear. They allow for more airflow therefore reducing the scent of the menstruation blood and prevents fungal and bacteria growth that cause irritation and infection. Women who are using Villachic pads have reported that they experience less irritation compared to plastic disposable pads. Women with sensitive skins or those afflicted with certain types of vaginitis, also find the Villachic sanitary pads more comfortable for their skins and they are less likely to develop rashes or contract dermatitis. Villachic reusable sanitary pads project empowers women and girls to have a voice to resist sex exploitation because they are able to gain access to affordable pads and generate income to provide for their families.

Villachic sanitary pads come in packets of 6 and cost about US$ 5 or € 3, including 2 storage bags. Each packet of Villachic sanitary pads lasts between 8– 12 months if well taken care of. This implies that in addition to contributing to preservation of the environment through the use of bio-gradable materials, one would spend an average of US$ 5 per year, which is less than a monthly expenditure on most of the disposable sanitary pads available in the markets.

Link between TVT Reusable Project and Fight against Spread of HIV/AIDS

Engagement in commercial sex is not only practiced by young or mature women but also by schools girls who allow themselves to be sexually exploited in order to earn a living. Such women and girls have very high chances of contracting HIV/AID. Girls who frequently attend school have potential to earn good and adequate income in the future. Furthermore they, are more independent, and are more likely to make well informed decisions about their sexual lives. Each additional year of education or learning can reduce the risk of HIV infection and delay a woman’s first pregnancy. Thus the availability of affordable reusable sanitary pads will contribute not only toward retention of girls in schools but will also offer an alternative of generating income for the women and therefore reduce the chances of their engagement in commercial sex. TVT reusable sanitary pads will also contribute towards improved quality of life for the rural families. Revenue from the sale of reusable sanitary pads will contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS by enabling families to provide food for the AIDS orphans and other victims and also keep them in school.

Capacity Building in the Production of Reusable Sanitary Pads.

TVT believes in empowering people with relevant information, tools and skills they need to be successful as a way of setting them free to manage their own affairs.

Capacity building is crucial for the sustainability of this project. Training programme incorporate both male and female teachers, parents and community leaders in order to empower them with adequate information on the production, usage and hygiene maintenance of the pads. Before groups are supported to start producing their own Villachic re-usable pads, adequate training and couching is offered by a qualified expert on the production of reusable sanitary pads. TVT engages services renowned reusable pads designers, supported by a team of local trainers to visit groups and offer training and refresher courses where needed. This enables them to acquire adequate skills to be able to design, sew and sell Villachic sanitary pads. Thus the production process of the Villachic reusable sanitary pads involves three major steps. Training, actual production, marketing and distribution. Villachic reusable pads come in various sizes , designs, absorbencies and colors and they will soon be available on line.

As soon the women are properly trained, TVT provides support to commence production and within a one year the project becomes self sustaining. Sustainability of this project is linked to the reality of the day whereby the need for sanitary pads can never be out of business because supply of sanitary pads is a never-ending demand –supply cycle prompting more creativity and aggressiveness from the producers. The women being supported by TVT have proved that they are up to the challenge.

Reusable pads project employs a participative approach which has established strong collaboration with the local community leaders, which makes it easier to promote and market Villachic pads. This approach has also contributed to strengthening local support of the project which by itself promotes marketing of the reusable pads. TVT has identified Trainers of Trainers (ToT) in each of the group in order to train other members of their groups. ToTs are used to train potential groups that would want to produce their own Villachic sanitary pads. TVT provides initial support in monitoring and reporting on the project progress but as the women get more and more involved, responsibility is slowly shifted to them.

Challenges

The main challenges facing Villachic sanitary pad project is lack of adequate resources to support more groups. After each women group has undergone training, the members are supported with seed money or initial capital so as to commence production. The revolving fund is not enough to cover all the 70 women groups under TVT and so only 3 or 4 can be supported at any one time. This means that others have to wait for the funded groups to produce their pads, sell them and repay the grant, which is then given to other groups on the waiting list. Given that it is anticipated to have all the 70 groups trained by end of June, 2011, it is imperative for TVT to secure adequate funding to enable all trained groups to initiate production of their own reusable pads. Delays in providing start up capital may result to frustrations among those who have already undergone the training programme. Not being able to support them immediately after the training could erode the hope, motivation and enthusiasm built up during the training period, which in turn would impact on the project’s sustainability.

Parting shot

The importance of a young girl's education cannot be over emphasized, especially in rural communities of developing countries, like Kenya, where beliefs and practices can undermine its value. In poor communities, higher female education levels not only have a positive effect on individual girls and their families, but on society as a whole. Unfortunately the truth of reality is that by the time they are 18, many of the rural girls have had their first baby when they cannot even afford to buy baby milk. They end up being employed as casual laborers, house helps and others take up prostitution as way of earning a living. Availability of affordable sanitary pads contributes to addressing issues related to menstrual hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, and how to avoid early pregnancy. In addition to retaining girls in schools, income from the project enables families return their daughters who had dropped out back to school.

TVT, therefore, continues to appeal for your support both in cash or kind. By donating Kshs. 350, US$ 5 or €3 or more to support production of one packet of Villachic sanitary pads or more. At TVT, we have testimony to prove that one dollar spent on empowering a woman, gives the entire village a hope for a brighter future.