Today, I am working hard on planning a test of environmentally friendly alternatives to regular, commercial, disposable sanitary pads. We are planning to provide each girl with one package of locally-made, disposable pads, as well as one of three cloth pad kits. The locally-made product is composed of papyrus, which grows plentifully in many places. These pads, called Makapads, are the invention of Moses Musaazi, an engineer at Makere University in Kampala. Moses has also invented an incinerator that can be used at the latrine. We will be testing both the pad and the incinerator. The cloth pads will likely be the Afripads, now being distributed by the Peace Corps in east Africa, the soft pad being produced by KMET in Kisumu, and a hand-made pad being made by Project Mwezi, also in Kisumu.
We are getting lots of comments about the need to use cloth instead of disposable pads. Unfortunately, most of the people who express this concern do not have any experience in truly impoverished rural communities and so they assume too much about the feasibility of using cloth. And they bring too much “rich world” baggage to the whole question. Nevertheless, it is clear that our team at Oxford needs to be able to answer questions about the feasibility and acceptability of alternative methods for the girls who go to school in such environments. We are trying to design a study that will be realistic, but will also deal with some of the limitations on cloth usage we have seen in the field, in the interest of providing cloth pads with the fairest possible test. I will be writing about some of these limitations and the importance of pad design in this blog over the next week.