Safe periods for all. How Frank Water supported partners to host a two-day sanitary pad making workshop
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The objective of this workshop was to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene and to introduce a safe, hygienic, biodegradable, low cost alternative for women and girls who still largely use cloth during their periods. Using cloth can make the women and girls susceptible to urinary tract infections and cause other problems.
We had 26 women and girls attend this workshop between the ages of 16 and 50 years old. There was a mixture of school and college students, farmers and health workers attending, and all belong to either the Gond tribe, or the further marginalised Baiga tribe.
We began with introductions and understanding the awareness of menstruation, menstrual health and hygiene via group discussions, images, videos and games.
Throughout the day the women and girls grew in confidence and started to detail their experiences of menstruation. Not only did they speak about their physical discomforts, but also the attitude of their family and community on the subject as well as sharing the stark fact that no one had spoken to them about menstruation before.
Our partners went on to discuss the subjects of change in the body during puberty, the reason for menstruation in maintaining and indicating women’s health as well as the various myths and malpractices around menstruation. To ensure the workshops could create behaviour change, the group discussed how one’s family, particularly male family members, can play a more supportive role in the lives of women and girls during their periods.
Predominantly elderly women in the area still only use cloth during their periods. As drying these cloth pads in the sun is taboo, many dry them in the shade which is a major cause for concern due to the unhygienic nature of this drying method.
However, on another level, the younger women from more affluent families use sanitary napkins which pose disposal problems and cause irritation on the skin. The idea of being able to make their own affordable, comfortable, sustainable alternative sanitary pads piqued their curiosity and the example product created an excitement in the room.
The women and girls were provided with the option of using a machine to stitch their own sanitary pads, or to sew with their hands. The women and girls learnt how to cut, sew and use the right cloth and filling to make the pads. At the end of the workshop they each went home with two pads that they had made with their own hands.
It was important for our partners to understand the levels of awareness on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), menstruation and menstrual hygiene within the community to be able to support the community further in the area.
The women and girls who attended the training have immense potential to become project allies within menstrual hygiene management and WASH related activities, and be key points of contact in the village.