Support other Women Period (Maxi-Pad Program)


March is International Women’s Month (yes, I said month!).  The women of Restore Humanity believe this should be celebrated and the best way to do so is for each of us to look at other women and find out what they really need--and then find effective ways to help provide it.  Here in the US our focus tends to be on the necessity for our equality, respect and opportunity, and rightfully so!  However, we are remiss if we fail to notice the huge chasm between groups of women when it comes to more basic needs.  And what could be more basic, or more of a woman’s issue than our periods?  AH! Yes I said it.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of ladies. Half of the world’s population deals with this one week out of every month, so we should be able to talk about it.

While “ladytime” is no picnic for anyone, for millions of women and girls worldwide it means so much more than discomfort. Millions of women and girls do not have access to maxi pads or tampons at all simply because they cannot afford them. However, every woman knows that nature will still take its course and “Aunt Flo” is coming whether you want her to or not. So unfortunately these girls and women have to use things like mud, sticks, leaves, pieces of a foam mattress, or old rags to try to manage their cycles. Not only do these things not work, they sometimes cause harmful infections.

The statistics are staggering. For example,  some estimates say that the average girl in Kenya misses 4.9 days of school every month, every single month of the school year.  That means they’re missing at least 20% of their school year due to lack of maxi-pads! That is just unacceptable. Period.

In 2012, I met with the girl students at Sirembe Secondary School (In Kenya) to talk about life and being a girl. At some point our discussion turned to the issue of schoolgirls having sex with older men, which is a problem for many reasons, not the least of which is the rapid spread of HIV. I asked them why girls were doing this and the first answer I got was “they do it to get money to buy things like maxi-pads.”  My jaw hit the floor. As I was leaving I asked them if there was one thing that I could do to help them, what would it be? Unanimously they said “Please buy us max-pads.”

Since then Restore Humanity has provided maxi-pads for the girls at Sirembe Secondary School, even as their population has quadrupled. Last year there were 325 girls and now it is closer to 380. While getting them pads was the most important thing, the impact on the environment was always in the back of my mind. The plastic in maxi-pads is non-biodegradable which means they stay in landfills for about 800 years! So if we buy pads for 380 girls each month, and if each girl uses that pack of 12 every month, that is 4,560 pads thrown away each month, and 54,720 per year from just one high school in rural Kenya! (432 million pads are disposed of each month globally)

The good news is we have found another way! A company called Thinx here in the US that makes underwear for your period (check them out, they are amazing) ---** for every pair you buy, they give to a social business in Uganda called Afripads. Afripads makes reusable maxi-pads that last for an entire year and they are amazing! They employ 170 people in Uganda and upwards of 95% of them are women, in all levels of the business. They partner with nonprofits and women’s groups and have reached almost 1 million women and girls with their products.

A packet of Afripads contains 3 daytime pads and 1 nighttime pad and a storage bag.  This packet costs around $5 and it lasts for an entire year. I tested them out myself on this past trip and asked my fellow staff ladies to do the same and everyone loved them! They are really comfortable, they actually work really well, and they’re also really easy to wash and take care of! We were spending about $1 per girl (for a 12 pack of pads), per month ($12 per year), but now we will be spending only $5 per year. It is more of a cost upfront but the return on investment is worth it on so many fronts!

  1. We help girls be safe, stay in school, and manage their periods with confidence and comfort.

  2. We help the environment in a big way.

  3. We support a social business, in Africa that employs almost 170 women.

  4. We save money!

So pretty much it is a win, win, win, win.  How could it get any better than that?!?