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Pilot Project: Reusable Sanitary Napkins

December 08, 2019
Author: Harit Patel

Last Christmas, Rotary Club Berlin Funkturm collected 3000€ for Kanya’s Chance during their yearly Christmas brunch. Together, we decided that the eco-friendlier option of reusable sanitary napkins should be explored in helping schoolgirls with Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). Since March 2019, we have then been working on this project.

The first step was to find the suitable target group for this project. We chose students from the largest of the three schools supported by Kanya’s Chance, G.J. Patel Secondary School in Anand, Gujarat. The schoolgirls here were elder compared to the other schools and more experienced in MHM. In consultation with the schoolteachers, it was decided that two sections from the ninth grade would be taking part in this pilot project.

At the same time, the search for the suitable sanitary napkins began. After reviewing a few samples, we decided on "Unipads", a social enterprise, from Gujarat. A key factor in the decision was that their napkins didn't need to be washed with warm water, or in a washing machine. The set of reusable sanitary napkins could be handwashed at room temperature water. Keeping our target group in mind, young girls, who don’t have access to a washing machine, we decided on using Unipads, thereby also supporting a local business.

Thereafter, along with our local partners from Rotary Club Anand Round Town (RoCART), we organized an informational briefing, wherein general knowledge regarding MHM was imparted and the schoolgirls could discuss their concerns with a local doctor. They then were also taught, how to use and care for these specific Sanitary Napkins. Almost 90 girls were provided with the reusable pads. Moreover a few members of Kanya’s Chance trialed the pads themselves, to be able to assess the quality and handling of the product.

Almost six months later, we conducted the first review of the sanitary napkins, with a few selected users, teachers and our local partners. Immediately after the introductions, one of the schoolgirls wished to know the price and address of the sanitary napkin manufacturer, as she wished to buy more of them. This was reassuring to us, that the product has been accepted by the target group, and it fits their needs. The teachers had compiled feedback from the schoolgirls and one of them had herself tested the sanitary napkins, based on recommendation of her students. A survey would soon be carried out, for all the schoolgirls, who had previously used the sanitary napkins.

On the other hand, some concerns remain regarding the reusable sanitary napkins. The warm climate in Gujarat allows for the sanitary napkins to dry quickly for a large part of the year. However, during monsoon period, due to very high humidity, the sanitary napkins, don’t dry quick enough for them to be used again the next day. There were also complaints regarding fitting for some of the smaller sized girls. KC-Volunteers who trialed the sanitary napkins, came to a similar conclusion. They also suggested, that the sanitary napkins were quite bulky and warm, in comparison to products in Germany, and might be a hindrance during sporting activities. We will address these concerns with the manufacturer and are exploring superior alternatives to increase the comfort of the schoolgirls.

In conclusion, the school wished for the continuation and expansion of the project for all 500 students. This was definitely reassuring for us as Kanya’s Chance, that the pilot project has been met with such overwhelming acceptance. Kanya’s Chance is now working out the next steps in expanding this project and continuing to improve lives of our young school girls.