Reusable sanitary pads: An empowerment to women

HARARE - ‘Bleed with pride’ is the adage by Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights activists directed at every woman of age in the world, but economic hardships have stripped off confidence from some women whose menstrual flows are a nightmare due to inaccessibility of sanitary wear.

Every month, women and girls around the world resort to managing their menstrual flow with newspapers, old rags and in worst scenarios, dry cow dung because they cannot afford proper sanitation products. 

These nervous conditions spurred innovators around the world to come up with a brilliant idea of reusable sanitary pads which are cheaper and healthier, to restore honour and women’s confidence.

As much as the reusable pad facet is not a new development in countries such as the United Kingdom, America, and other African countries like Kenya where they are now made with great sophistication, the phenomenon is new in Zimbabwe and a lot of people are still skeptical about it.

However, one daring young lady Buhle Mhlanga has taken a dive into the reusable pad business and has managed to even tap into foreign markets.

Besides being an enthusiast of community work and advocate in issues pertaining women’s rights, Mhlanga is a founder of Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe which is a young women’s organisation that looks into issues of the livelihood of women and the girl child. 

“The economy of Zimbabwe has made it very stiff for the underprivileged girl child to access sanitary wear due to sky rocketing prices hence that’s why I embarked on a journey to make reusable pads that will not only accommodate the less privileged in the urban areas but the rural areas too,” Mhlanga said.

Mhlanga undertook a reusable pad sewing training this year at Pelandaba in Bulawayo, a one day workshop which was organised by Inspire Women and Children, then saw an opportunity that needs exploring while helping the less privileged to access sanitary wear.

“Soon after the training I put the final product on quite a number of WhatsApp groups as a step of raising awareness on the issue of reusable pads then in one of the groups as we were chatting then a friend of mine stated she wanted some,” Mhlanga said.

“This was when I started getting messages in my inbox of people in SA wanting them. 

“I also put it on my WhatsApp status as well together with my other social media pages which got more people coming through wanting to know more and purchase.” 

According to SNV Zimbabwe, 72 percent of rural girls who menstruate do not use sanitary pads, 45 percent do not have access to proper sanitary wear and end up using rags, cow dung or grass and leaves during their menstrual periods.

Research has shown that reusable pads, aside from being economically friendly, they have high absorbency, are leak resistant and safe material unlike disposable pads that mostly use synthetic fibres such as rayon and plastic that are super absorbent and may even absorb moisture from the genital increasing chances of severe menstrual cramps and infections.

“The sanitary wear market is driven by various factors such as change in buying preferences regarding sanitary wear, growing awareness about female hygiene and increasing health issues of which all are contributing to the growth of the global market everywhere across the world,” Mhlanga said.

Reusable pads are more economically friendly when compared to the cost of disposable sanitary wear, which cost a minimum of $3 per pack of 10 while reusable pads cost $5 for a packet of 5 including a pad case and can be used for a minimum of eight months.

“Health wise they’re chemical free, non-toxic, easy to use and simple to clean as I use fleece material and towelling,” Mhlanga added.

Using unhygienic alternatives such as pieces of rags as sanitary wear can result in rash, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, fungal and yeast infections and possible cervical cancer.

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights activist, Thuto Mavula who is active in organising youths for reusable pad making workshops said reusable pads are more sustainable and empowers the girl child to be in control rather than being a donor case by relying on donated disposable pads which does not last long.

“They are cheap in the sense that one can make them by themselves; Imagine a household with three girls, it means one has to fork out $4-$7 for one pack and each girl needs say 3 packs on average a month. That’s a staining cost of $36-$93 on a struggling family,” Mavula said.

As the fight to make sanitary wear easily accessible to the girl child in Zimbabwe continues, Mhlanga aspires to grow her small business into a successful enterprise in the near future. 


 

Comments (1)

Zimbabwe needs a war to rest. Seriously.

Chikowore - 31 December 2018

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