How do women cope in this situation once a month when they have their period? Money is scarce, and food is the priority.
Commonly the women use rags instead of buying expensive sanitary pads. This is obviously not a healthy choice, as the lack of adequate soap and privacy to dry them means that cloth is often full of bacteria, leading to infection. This can cause chaffing and sores.
Although medication is available through the facilities in the camp, to treat infections, some women seek different or improved medication from doctors elsewhere. They often end up trading in precious food vouchers in order to pay for this.
Every two to three months, the Norwegian Refugee Council now provide some sanitary pads to individuals between the ages of 11-50.
However the women report that the top fabric does not absorb well resulting in blood leaking onto their clothes. This top material can also irritate the skin causing rashes and further infection. The pads available are also not long enough, so they tend to use two pads instead of one – draining their finances further. Tissue is also placed on top of the pad to make them last longer, causing bad odours and infection.
We believe we can help resolve these problems by installing clever machines, created in India, that can be used to make cheap, hygienic sanitary towels and incontinence pads.
Our initial research started with Mr. Muruga, who invented the original low-cost sanitary pad machine. We spent two days with him and benefitted from his expertise and advice. Unfortunately his prices for the raw product made the project financially unviable and, having spent six months attempting to source the raw products globally, it became apparent that he was not the right partner for the project.
Mr and Mrs Maruga
Mrs Swati and Mr Shyam Bedekar
Further investigation led us to Swati and Shyam Bedekar and we spent a week with them in Gujarat. They are an inspirational couple. Swati, in particular, works tirelessly to educate girls about menstrual care and has taken on the challenge of changing millennia of misplaced beliefs around menstruation. It was hugely uplifting to see their wonderful invention working and allowing women to take control, not only of their health, but also their finances. It is changing lives.
Swati and Shyam have made various improvements to Mr. Muruga’s machines, notably by adding wings to the pads. Due to their co-operation and dedication, we are now able to supply two sizes of pads to the women. Because of the sometimes insanitary conditions that these machines are placed in, one element of the machine is a UV sterilizing unit, which produces a pad that is even safer and cleaner than commercial pads which are not sterilised. The pads produced by these machines have been given a certificate of approval by the Government of India.