In our study about the acceptability of alternative methods to commercially available pads, we will investigate three cloth options. The first of these is called “Afripads.” These pads are sold in a “Comprehensive Menstrual Kit,” that includes two snap-on pads, three winged liners, three straight liners, and two small bags for carrying. The pads and liners are made of fleece. The snap-on goes in the crotch area of the panties and snaps underneath. It has a small stretch of satin ribbon at each end, through which the liners can be slipped. The liners then can be stacked at whatever depth the user feels necessary, allowing flexibility throughout the cycle.
When washed, the fleece seems to dry quickly. I washed one set and found that, twelve hours later, the stitching was still quite wet. The drying time would, of course, depend on both the temperature and the level of humidity in which the pads were held. And, of course, how clean they became would depend on the water and whether soap was in use. This is the key issue for the test–whether the girls have the means to keep the pads clean and dry for use. If the means to clean and dry the pads are not present, wet or dirty pads will pose a health hazard–and the girls will be too embarrassed by the scent to use them.
We will provide each girl with a full kit. Because there are two pads and multiple liners, there is a good chance that there will be time between changing for the apparatus to dry. However, a key concern is that the full kit sells for US$5.95, which is much more than a package of disposable pads. The kit should last up to a year. Thus, over a twelve-cycle period, the cost would be only 50 US cents per month. That cost would be slightly cheaper than the Makapads and a good bit cheaper than most commercially available pads. However, the initial investment would likely seem an insurmountable obstacle to the girls themselves.
So, this alternative would likely have to be provided with some kind of government subsidy or charitable gift behind it if it is to be acceptable in truly poor rural areas. We have heard, however, that the kits are selling well in peri-urban areas in east Africa. And, the potential to avoid replacing latrines backed up by disposables may make the pads very attractive to school districts. So, there are many scenarios for providing these pads. The first issue is to find out whether the girls will accept them and can keep them clean. That is the purpose of the study.
In the next posts, I will introduce two other pads we are testing, one made by a microfinance group in east Africa and one made by a collective of teenage mothers in the same region.