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Reusable Menstrual Pads Are Rocking Rural Tanzania

Empower Tanzania has partnered with Days for Girls to offer a much-needed solution for women and girls in rural Tanzania. During menstruation, girls and young women living in rural areas of Tanzania have no choice but to use rags instead of cost-prohibitive feminine hygiene products. This leads to many problems, including excessive school absence. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 10% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss up to 20% of the school year due to her menstrual cycle.

We have a found an exciting solution. Our 100 Beyond Gender-Based Violence Entrepreneurs have learned how to produce reusable menstrual pads. The product is then sold through the Empower Tanzania network of Community Health Workers and Community Health Educators, a sales force that has the potential to reach tens of thousands of people per month! The products are made of soft, colorful, absorbent flannel with a special waterproof barrier and attach to the underwear like panty liners. They last around three years and provide a much-needed, multi-faceted solution.

Here's why we love this program:

1. Girls Graduate: With a reusable menstrual pad kit, a young woman can stay in school! No longer does she have to worry about her health and hygiene during her period and her risk of dropping out decreases dramatically. Health problems, combined with the ineffectiveness of using rags during menses, results in girls not attending school during their period. This is a leading cause of the high drop-out rates among girls and is a life-changing consequence that can be prevented with this effective menstrual hygiene option.

2. The Local Economy is Boosted: Most of the materials used in the production of these reusable menstrual pads are sourced in Tanzania. Anytime we can spend money in-country, it helps the local economy. And it’s not just the local economy that gets a boost. Confidence is boosted, too! The Beyond Gender Based Violence women are enthusiastic about the opportunity this program provides. The improvement in their confidence and self-esteem is evident in their work and commitment!

3. Women Generate Income: The 100 women in the Beyond Gender Based Violence program have been trained to manufacture the reusable menstrual pads and profit from the production. The Community Health Educators and Community Health Workers get a commission for their sales. When women earn money, they often spend it on food for their families and education for their children.

4. The Environment is Less Stressed: Reusable menstrual pads produce little waste and are therefore better for our environment. One pack of reusable menstrual pads created and sold by our entrepreneurs lasts for three years! Compare that to the average Westerner who uses an average of 20 tampons or pads per menstrual period, thus using 250-300 pounds of products, applicators, and wrappers in a lifetime.

5. Hygiene is Improved: Disposable pads are quite expensive in Tanzania and using old rags leads to embarrassing leakage, urinary tract infections, and other medical problems. Reusable menstrual pads are far healthier (because of fewer infections) than rags. Larger, more absorbent pads are used for women after delivery, women (or men) with incontinence, and are very much needed for fistula.

This post was originally published by Empower Tanzania, a Days for Girls International partner since 2016.

Days for Girls
Days for Girls is an award-winning global NGO bringing menstrual health, dignity and opportunity to 3+ million girls (and counting!) worldwide.