Kenya Medical and Education Trustlaunched their “Comfort Pads” in Nambale District in early 2010.
The pads are produced by a collective of teenage mothers, on a machine like the one shown on the right here. KMET provides an innovative training program, in which teen moms are given special schooling to help them reclaim their lives and provide for their children. One group, at the end of the program, decided to go into business for themselves. They selected sanitary pads as their project because they felt that their experience had taught them many girls in Africa first “get in trouble” when they trade sex for sanitary pads. They wanted to provide a product that would help other girls avoid this outcome.
The pads are made of a soft terrycloth. Inside, they are stuffed with a soft cotton and have a PVC liner that prevents leakage. They sell for about 360 Kenyan shillings for a pack of six, or about US$4.31 and should last twelve months if properly cared for. That means this method would cost the user about 36 cents per month over a year, considerably less than either the MakaPads or the Afripads, but still the “up front” cost would be daunting for a rural girl. As with other cloth pads, it may be best either to get subsidies for providing the pads to those who need them, or it may work to sell the pads to wealthier women as a way of raising money (and putting the environmental pressure on those better placed to cope with the washing).
Our “test driver” said the pads were very comfortable because very soft and that she felt completely confident when wearing them because of the plastic liner and the thickness of the pads. She offered the opinion that a girl could go 12 hours or more without a leak. She thinks this pad is probably the most reliable one we are testing.
The concern, as with all the cloth pads, is the challenge of washing. This pad takes quite a long time to dry–at least four days in our test. This is because of the thickness, which offers both the softness and the reliability. So there is a trade-off. But if purchased in packs of six, it may be that the drying will be manageable because users will have enough pads to use while waiting for drying. The design of this pad seems likely to be a bit harder to get clean, however. Again, this is because of the thickness, which seems likely to hold the blood and bacteria more than a thinner pad.
A last concern is with the terry cover. When terrycloth is dried outdoors in the sun, it becomes quite hard and stiff. We learned in another location that pads made with terrycloth and dried in the sun could become so rough that they would chafe painfully in use after washing. So we will be watching these issues.
Nevertheless, the combination of the price with the reliability makes this pad a good candidate for testing.