Improving Women’s Sanitary Pad Utilization

Making the Necessary Home Made:  How a Girls’ Club in Tigray Region is improving Women’s Sanitary Pad Utilization

By Amerti Lemma, Save the Children in Ethiopia

I usually get inspired when I stumble upon realities around me that I haven’t thought about in the past. In Maydaero, a faraway village in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, I had yet another one of these epiphanies.

 I discovered reusable sanitary pads!

Now, I’ve heard of these washable miracles that can save money, are environmentally friendly and a better choice for healthier women compared to the alternative of regular disposable pads that we, city ladies, pick up from store shelves every month. What left me in awe is the fact that I found these amazing alternatives in a girls’ club at the Maydaero full cycle primary school.

Aside from finding them in this remote village, I was struck when I found out that these pads were Ethiopian made, in Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray in Ethiopia. Most importantly, it is a much cheaper alternative for buyers, at 30 birr (USD $1.50) for a pack of four reusable pads. The intervention starts at grade four and the training has been given to the two coordinators at the school.

A packet of resuable sanitary pads

The girls’ club is one of the best places to have an open discussion, for these young girls that are going through changes with their bodies. What usually ends up happening with girls that have started their menstruation cycles is that they miss 5 days of school on average every month. The embarrassment of not having underwear and as a result, not being able to participate in activities in school freely is the shaming factor leading to these girls’ missed classes in school.

Enda Hailu, demonstrates the underwear that girls at the Maydaero school sew for their personal use, along with the sanitary pads that the school provides them.

What the school’s girls’ club coordinators Enda Hailu and Tsega-Zeab Gebretensaie do to avert this situation is give psycho-social counseling as well as provide girls with these materials such as hand-made underwear and Ethiopian-made reusable pads. Enda makes sure she demonstrates the practicalities of how to use this revolutionary pad to girls in their girls’ club office located in the school.

This form of encouraging girls to understand their bodies and not feel ashamed while equipping them with the materials necessary has seen a drastic change in girls that used to miss class in the past. Enda and Tsega-Zeab also give counseling about family planning and encourage teachers to not use the whip on school children. All these factors converge to create a strong force for girls in the wider community to participate in schools happily and better equipped; the way that Save the Children always strives towards through its educational programming.       

 Maydaero school’s girls’ club coordinator Enda Hailu shows the methods of contraceptives that they teach at their office