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How Sanitary Pads Keep African Girls in School


When a girl living in a developing country stays in school she will likely marry later, have children later, and earn more money throughout her lifetime. Education is the fundamental key to success for girls who then become productive, wage-earning contributors to the success and sustainability of an entire community. In fact, according to the United Nations Population Fund when girls attain at least seven years of education, they marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children. While access to education for girls is improving, getting them to stay in school and not miss days is a challenge. 

Girls tend to miss up to 50 days of school per year, according to SHE, Sustainable Health Enterprises,  because they self-isolate when they have their monthly period. It is a growing problem in developing countries and several organizations are working tirelessly to provide low-cost menstrual pads made from local resources so girls can go to school each day school is in session.

As you might suspect there are millions of girls who have reached puberty in developing countries resulting in a great challenge to scale efforts to provide sanitary pads to all girls to keep them in school full-time. Despite the enormity of the problem NGOs are using their resources and business models to ensure girls have the necessary personal items to prevent missing school.

Here are three organizations you can help. 

SHE – Sustainable Health Enterprises: SHE works with women in Rwanda to create sanitary napkins out of banana husks that are turned into fiber for menstrual pads. Watch the video below to see how they use an extractor to make the fibers for the pads. It is amazing how people have used sheer ingenuity with natural resources. Also, take a look at the SHE campaign video on Youtube that fully explains the lack of feminine care products for girls, the SHE model and solutions.

Women and men can then start their own businesses where they make the low-cost, eco-friendly menstrual pads and sell them locally at a low cost.

How can you help? You can donate $28  because girls’ lives shouldn’t have to stop every 28 days when their periods start.

Pads 4 Girls and AFRIPads: Started in 2000 by LunaPads, the popular Vancouver-based cloth pad company, Pads 4 Girls provides reusable cloth menstrual pads for girls in developing countries. Partnered with Afripads, Pads 4 Girls is based on the BOGO model popularized by Tom’s shoes and provides an income-generating opportunity for women to make the pads.

Watch a video showing how Afripads are changing the lives of school girls who use them and the women who make them.

How can you help? For every pad you buy from LunaPads on their #One4Her page, a Uganda-made Afripad will be donated to a girl in need in Uganda.

While only working in a few Africa countries at the time these organizations are moving to scale their models so women in other countries can replicate the model of making the pads and selling them at a low cost so girls can continue to go to school.

Interestingly, African girls are not the only ones who experience the problem of skipping days in school when they have their periods. The same problem occurs in India as well. In fact, an entrepreneur set out to create a low-cost pad that India women could make and women and girls could afford. Now women all across the country in 23 states are creating pads that are more hygienic, affordable, and easier to use.


Read more of Jennifer’s writing at Mom Bloggers for Social Good and Jennifer James Online. And don’t miss a post! Follow Jennifer on Twitter.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

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