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Reusable pads giving dignity to slum girls

By Anyango Atieno | September 10th 2020

The use of reusable menstrual pads among women is fast gaining popularity because of durability and cost-effectiveness.

A December 2018 study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed a high preference for reusable pads compared to disposable ones. The study showed that 84 per cent of girls preferred reusable pads over disposable pads, while 8 per cent preferred a combination of both.

To test the appropriateness and acceptability of reusable sanitary pads in the southwestern refugee context, specifically among learners, 90 schoolgirls were randomly selected by UNHCR in each of the three refugee settlements located in southwestern Uganda: Rwamwanja, Kyaka II, and Nakivale for a total of 270 girls.  According to the study, reusable menstrual pads were clearly culturally and socially accepted in this refugee context.

At baseline, the respondents reported that not having enough sanitary products during their period was their top challenge (chosen by 43 per cent of the girls). This number dropped to 22 per cent after the intervention, implying that the reusable pads (AFRIpads) provided met that challenge for many.

In Nairobi, Elidawn, a group comprised of eight women randomly selected girls in the slums of Sinai and Mukuru kwa Njenga as beneficiaries of a hygiene kit which is meant to cushion them against the effects of Covid-19.

About 120 young girls aged between nine and 18 from these areas received free feminine hygiene products.

This was the second time Elidawn undertook this hygiene drive. The first time the drive was carried out in Mathare North.

The reusable pads will sustain the girls for three years, according to Julie Njoroge, one of the members of the group.

Elidawn coordinated with officials from the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, who offered menstrual care tips and education. They also offer counselling sessions for those undergoing stresses such as depression.

Njoroge noted that with stresses caused by Covid-19 pandemic, getting feminine hygiene products may be difficult. In these kits, the girls are provided with soap to wash the pads.

A guide on menstrual hygiene by Unicef says training on good user practice, provision of soap, underwear and storage bags, availability of private places for washing and drying are all important.

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