Can you imagine putting your life on hold every month, to avoid the shame of menstruation?
That’s what happens when you can’t afford sanitary napkins and resort to using whatever you can as an alternative. Any old rag to staunch the flow is not only unhealthy (causing skin irritations and vaginal infections) but impracticable and messy. So many girls miss classes (worried about embarrassing stains and discomfort), become isolated and eventually drop out of school altogether. By missing out on education, they miss the opportunity for better employment, can become susceptible to sexual exploitation and ultimately perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
Can you imagine what it would mean to millions of girls and women around the world to have ready access to sanitary pads?
It would change lives! Imagine the confidence young women would gain in being able to live an unrestricted life knowing that their monthly periods were not going to hold them back or make them sick.
What we need is jugaad – a simple, but ingenious invention in the face of scarce resources – it’s what a can-do attitude can achieve!
The subject of menstrual health education – and connecting innovation with investment to provide sustainable solutions – has been close to my heart for many years, ever since working with Jane Otai on our African Girl Empowerment Program.
I had been following models such as those offered by Afripads and Huru, and recently had the pleasure of meeting Lunapads founder, Madeleine Shaw, in Vancouver. Madeleine showed me samples of the washable, reusable pads and demonstrated how the simple design of a comfortable, absorbent pad could provide hygiene and dignity to the users and a livelihood to the sewers, meaning potential empowerment for women all over the world!
Can you imagine how you could become involved in making it happen for them?
Now we can combine health education with a practical self-help option. With nominal start-up and operating costs, willing participants and a little training, the model is most definitely achievable and replicable across both poor rural villages and urban slums!
Here’s what we need:
- A women’s local, self-help group,
- A clean facility in which to sew,
- Sewing machines, fabric and notions,
- A trainer to teach the concept and business model.
At this time I have identified two communities – one in Nairobi, Kenya, and the other in Kolkata, India – that would benefit enormously from such a small enterprise.
In Nairobi, our women’s self-help group is already established, developed by Jane Otai through Jhepeigo. The women are currently sewing various items and are ready to learn how to sew sanitary pads. For this project we need fabric, sewing notions and a trainer to provide the impetus to develop the idea into a viable business.
In Kolkata, we are starting fresh with a small group of women eagerly looking forward to this opportunity. Here we are looking for 10 sewing machines and a location, as well as fabric and notions. Most importantly, we need to offer the support to find a trainer and mentor for the group.
We have the opportunity to put this jugaad into motion and help women to empower themselves! Are you in?