As part of our Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights programme, Menstrual Hygiene Management is an area Welisane Foundation has keen interest in because of the deplorable situation in Cameroon, as well as the stigma and taboos that surround it especially in the rural communities. This is even compounded by period poverty which is one of the major challenges in achieving good menstrual hygiene. Also, access to sanitary products, sanitation infrastructure especially clean water and safe hygienic spaces further compounds the situation.
Many girls miss an average of 50 days of school per year because they cannot afford disposal sanitary pads and this leads to poor performance in school, loss of self-esteem and sometimes infections because they resort to dirty rags, moss, banana leaves, feathers, mattress and even cow dung.
Moreover with the on-going Anglophone crisis, many girls and women have fled into the bushes. These girls and women are having a hard time dealing with their monthly period and are forced to use leaves and moss to absorb the flow of blood. Even those displaced to the French speaking regions and to neighbouring Nigeria face the challenge of affording their basic needs, pads being a major challenge.It is against this backdrop that Welisane Foundation started the One Girl One Pad project aimed at giving disposal pads to displaced and underprivileged girls to combat these health and social challenges.However, this project was not sustainable because we had to buy disposal pads every month for these girls and sometimes these pads were being used by others.
It is against this backdrop that we began to think of a sustainable solution which gave way to reusable pads to help underprivileged manage their periods in privacy, safety and dignity. The provision of these free reusable sanitary pads goes a long way in helping girls reach their full potential in life and especially their academic potential, train girls on how to make these reusable pads themselves and also provide vocational training for other girls to produce these pads so as to provide employment opportunities for them.
WELICIOUS REUSABLE PADS LAUNCHING
On the 2019 World Menstrual Hygiene Day, we launched our reusable pads project and for this pilot project we targeted 1000 beneficiaries but we ended up superseding this number. Thanks to partnership with other organisation and individuals, we distributed 1725 reusable kits to girls in the SW region, Center Region and the North Region. It is important to highlight the environmental factor and benefits of this project. These pads are reusable and eco-friendly thus enhancing a safe, beautiful, washable, and long-lasting alternative along with vital health education. According to a research, environmental impact caused by sanitary waste is a major challenge in the world today. A plastic disposable sanitary pad requires about 500–800 years decomposing. Thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste are generated every month all over the world. This is a ridiculous amount of pollution which is hazardous with toxic chemicals leaching the soil, strong and harsh odours emitted by the waste disposed of in landfills or buried in the soil. This waste is toxic and hazardous to human health as well. Most of the chemicals from these pads reaching the soil cause groundwater pollution, loss of soil fertility. Disposal of this sanitary waste is also a big question mark. Many women flush down disposable sanitary napkins after use, clogging underground drains and manual scavengers bearing the health cost for the same. It is made from 100% cotton and complying with environmental laws and green initiatives, making it far superior to the throwaway type which takes over 800 years to decompose. Also these reusable pads are cost effective compared to disposal pads and they last longer. Reusable pads need to be washed, dried, and cared for, special care may need to be taken if the user has an infection. Pads can cause infection and reinfection if not well taken care of or sterilized. This explains why we need to accompany this project with proper menstrual hygiene education to avoid health hazards. We believe washing and drying these pads outdoors will go a long to demystify the stigma and taboos that surround menstruation especially in the rural communities. Training girls on how to make these pads, how to train others and empowering girls through a training center with these skills so that they can teach make the pads in the community and sell for a small cost so that they can become economically empowered as well as help to solve the problem of pad poverty. We have equally done online campaigns with specific menstrual hygiene hashtags messages on twitter, facebook, instagram, in partnership with menstrualyhygiene.org. We have been on school campuses to educate both girls and boys about menstruation, menstrual hygiene and menstruation stigma.
We have the goal of producing more reusable pads for displaced and underprivileged girls, starting a training center with enough sewing machines and man power and imparting skills in these girls for a more sustainable menstrual hygiene management in our community and the nation as a whole.
The Founder of Welisane Foundation was selected as one of the sustainability leaders for United People Global to get further training on reusable pads at Hurricane Island in Maine USA.