Friday, 16 April 2010

Sister Hope: Empowering Women in Developing Countries

In "developed" countries, we tend to take our access to menstrual products for granted. Whether we use cloth pads, disposable pads, tampons, a cup, or any of the other many options available, the menstrual protection of our choice is just a trip to the shops or mouse click away.

But what about developing countries? According to nonprofit organisation Sister Hope: "Not only are most young girls and women unable to afford proper sanitary napkins, many do not even have access to such products. As a result, young women are using unhealthy materials such as tree bark and leaves, as well as rolled up pieces of newspaper to manage their period. This lack of protection leads many girls and women to miss up to five days of school and work each month, with many forced to quit their jobs or drop out of school entirely. Even more, the use of these unhealthy materials leads to infections and even cervical cancer."

Within the last couple of years, this largely ignored issue has received some attention. There have been drives by major disposable pad companies to send shipments of their products to women in need. However, leaving women dependent on regular foreign aid for their menstrual needs is hardly a permanent solution.

Sister Hope is a nonprofit organisation based in the USA that is dedicated to creating sustainable change. They provide hygeine kits to young girls and women living in poverty, consisting of reusable menstrual pads, underwear, soap, wetbags, and other hygeine products. As well as having less environmental impact, providing reusable pads instead of disposables means that a woman's stash will last for years. She will always have soft, comfortable, absorbent pads to hand, and will be able to handle her period safely and with dignity.

Here at Luna Wolf, I have been busy working on a foldable all-in-one design to offer in donation sets for Sister Hope.

The foldable design has several advantages:

  • All parts of the pad can be reached, making it easier to clean thoroughly by hand;

  • The fold-out design dries fast, so that after washing, each pad will be ready to use again quickly;

  • If only lightly soiled, the pad can be re-folded so that a clean part of the fabric is against the skin;

  • Cotton flannel fabric is natural, quick drying and cool against the skin, ideal for warmer climates.

  • PUL backing is 100% waterproof, providing complete protection against leaks and helping the pad to last longer.

These donation sets are available at Cloth Pad Shop Europe. The cost only covers the materials and some of the shipping fees - I do not make a profit from them. I realise money is tight for most people at the moment, myself included. However, if you do have a little spare cash, please consider helping out women in need by buying a donation set. It really does make a huge difference. Alternatively, why not make some pads yourself?

Sister Hope's next shipment of pads is headed to Mbale, Uganda. Next in line are Cameroon and Haiti. Their goal is 500 pads by May 15th; at the time of posting, they still need 190. Let's help them reach their goal!

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