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Many girls in rural areas of Zambia have little or no access to, or cannot afford, disposable sanitary wear and use traditional methods during menstruation instead. We found that because of this many girls who have reached puberty may miss up to a week of school in every four  - that's 25% of their education - and that can add up to 18 months of lessons between grade 5 and completion of school. This can have obvious consequences regarding success with education and the final exams.  
To help address this issue we are developing washable, reusable sanitary pad kits.  
Research first 
Over a year and a half we trialed various designs with local women and girls of various ages and backgrounds who were at school, home or had a variety of jobs. By taking care to listen to their comments we designed a pad that was comfortable and safe to use. 
Cultural Beliefs and taboos 
The many tribes throughout Africa have different beliefs; for example some women believe that by burning used pads that they are burning their unborn children and here in South Luangwa there is a widely held belief that your menstrual blood can be used against you in witchcraft.
All women and girls are united in the need to be discreet when it comes to washing and drying their traditional menstrual cloths and these beliefs are no different when it comes to the pads.  So in order to encourage them to put pads out in the sun to dry we designed a 'modesty hanger' to take five pads and that can be easily hung in a tree.  
Making Pads in the PL Women's Craft Workshop 
Early in 2015 we taught several local women to sew and they started producing pads for sale shortly afterwards. Our all-in-one pad design uses 3 to 5 layers of bamboo fleece (depending on whether for normal or heavy flow days) as an absorbant layer and a layer of PUL fabric - PUL is waterproof but breathable fabric. These layers of bamboo and PUL are encased in two layers of cotton: soft brushed cotton worn next to the skin and an outer layer of bright, fashionable and prettily patterned cotton.  The pads are fastened with a single plastic KAM popper into the crutch of the pants. 
What's in a pack?
Pads are available in packs of five for normal flow days, five for heavy days or night use, and packs of mixed pads (normal & heavy day pads). every pack contains one of our secret ‘modesty hanger' essential for drying the pads descreetly outdoors. There's also a luxury pack with pads, panti liners, a storage bag, modesty hanger, and a pretty wet-dry bag for taking clean pads to school and bringing home the rinsed ones inconspicuously.
How you can help
We sell pads at a subsidised price in our Women's Craft Workshop to local women but you can help us distribute them to school girls who are unable afford them themselves.
$15 will buy a pack of pads that will enable a girl to go to school everyday of the month. When we have enough packs for a whole class of girls we send out our own Gender Support Manager to talk to the mothers, teachers and the local 'alangezi' and then to introduce th pads to the girls in school.  You can donate to this project by going to our donate page, but don't forget to mention 'pads' in your comment. 
Menstrual Hygiene Management 

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