Reusable towels; hope for young girls who cannot afford sanitary pads
Having been raised in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, Bethsheba Elizabeth Otuga witnessed first-hand the challenges of being a young girl growing up in abject poverty. One of her most enduring memories was her monthly menstrual cycle, which made life a bloody hell for her, and hundreds of other girls growing up around her.
According to Elizabeth, when ‘Aunty Flo’ came knocking every month, girls would be forced to stay away from school and other social obligations for at least three days to one week, to allow the period to subside.
Sanitary pads were a luxury only affordable to the rich, and every penny that came into the house had to be accounted for, first to settle priorities like food and clothing, and then luxuries like pads would come much lower in the priority list. Sometimes, not at all.
Elizabeth says she did not like her reality. And when she grew older, she made a promise to change this reality for herself and for girls around her. This is how Ahadi (Swahili for promise) came to life. Ahadi Pads is a venture being run by Elizabeth with the aim of providing affordable and hygienic reusable sanitary towels for women and girls.
Elizabeth says her priorities are first, to increase women’s dignity, second to improve hygiene levels during menstruation, and third, to improve girls’ self-esteem during their periods.
“We produce organic cotton sanitary towels for teenage girls which are washable, Eco- friendly, high quality, long lasting, reliable and beautifully made. The sanitary pads are made in different sizes to cater for both girls and women,” she told CityBiz.
The biodegradable pads come with a ‘dignity kit’, which includes a bucket for washing used pads, a bar of soap, a waterproof pouch for carrying used pads, flannel for cleaning up, panties and a set of six reusable sanitary pads.
According to Elizabeth, the kit can last for up to two years depending on frequency of usage.
“The reusable pads have unique features such as safety wings, extra thickness and length to prevent leakages. They also come in minted colours which assist in preventing them from getting stained and faded out. Snap buttons are used to fasten pads in place,” she says.
According to her, each pad has a handmade organic top layer made from 100 percent cotton, which makes it comfortable to wear close to the skin. It then has a layer of microfiber inside for increased absorbency.
She says, “The pads are super absorbent and engineered to reduce the chances of leaks. They are made to the highest standards using naturally antibacterial materials”.
The dignity kit comes in a four-piece package and a six-piece package, which has two extra pads. The four-piece kit retails at Sh500, while the six-pack kit retails at Sh1,100.
“We recommend washing the pads in cold water then simply hanging out to dry in direct sunlight. If not washed immediately, used pads can be soaked or rinsed in cold water until ready to machine wash,” she adds.
Apart from menstrual periods, the reusable pads can also be used by people with mild urinary incontinence, women after childbirth and old folks with medical complications.
One year since she started making the reusable pads, Elizabeth says she has been able to produce more than 2,000 packs of six pads each, which she has sold and or donated to needy girls in Nairobi and its environs.
“Our target is to produce 2,000 packs every month so that we can impact an average of 24,000 girls in the year,” she told CityBiz.