Reusable pads could change lives

An estimated 150 000 Namibian girls cannot afford sanitary products and experience a monthly ordeal that could be lessened by means of reusable pads.

31 October 2018 | Social Issues

A new Namibian-made reusable sanitary product could significantly ease the monthly struggle of an estimated 150 000 or more girls unable to afford disposable sanitary pads and instead rely on unsafe and unhygienic alternatives.

“We may not realise it but there are thousands of Namibian girls who cannot afford a basic sanitary pad, and it's a huge handicap for them,” says Hermine Bertolini of Ann Pads.

Bertolini says girls who can't buy safe products often use old fabrics, including t-shirts and socks, or newspapers, which can be harmful at worst, embarrassing and unhygienic at the least.

She emphasises that menstruation is a basic part of any woman's developmental phase and through Ann Pads, she hopes to empower Namibian women and girls.

“Our products are designed to give young girls and women their dignity back. It is specially created for those who are not privileged enough to afford a pack of disposable sanitary pads each and every cycle.”

A major concern is that many simply stay home in order to avoid the embarrassment at school of leaks or the discomfort of alternative products.

“If a girl stays away from school one week every month for one trimester, she misses a whole month of school compared to a male competitor. This again gives her male counterpart the upper hand. We do not only advocate for the use of the reusable sanitary pad, but also for the empowerment of women and girls,” Bertolini says.



Good price

She, and others in Namibia, point out that government programmes providing pads to girls in need are based on disposable and pricey products, which quickly deplete meagre resources.

Based on a concept designed in South Africa by the D.A.R.E to be Empowered organisation, Ann Pads consist of a packet of six sanitary pads of different thickness and sizes, costing N$120, that can be used for up to four years.

This means a saving of at least N$2 000 over that period.

“We try to keep the price low so that they are affordable to those who cannot afford sanitary products, and we ensure very high quality. Good quality, but affordable.”

The pads are produced in Windhoek by Bertolini and five employees.

They consist of three layers. The topping is “extremely important, as it must have an excellent moisture management level so that it absorbs blood or urine immediately so that the skin doesn't feel wet and stays dry.”

The second part of the pad consists of what is called the core, which is designed for maximum absorption.

Bertolini said the pad is wrapped in beautiful fabric on the outside “so that it looks like a little purse, it doesn't look like a pad.”

In June this year, Namibian Sun reported on the health ministry's Sanitary Pads Project, where 600 teenage girls had benefitted by receiving monthly disposable pads.

But as many as 150 000 girls could be struggling to obtain safe sanitary wear, the ministry admitted at the time.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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