Making Reusable Pads


Pencils of Promise
October 6, 2020

By: WASH Team, Ghana

A menstrual pad is a type of hygiene product that is worn externally and can be disposable or reusable. It is an absorbent item worn in the underwear to absorb the flow of blood from the uterus through the vagina during menstruation.

Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPS) are made with clean fabrics and can be used more than once. Cotton fabrics are suitable for making the pad and must not fade when it is washed.

Photo description: Three individual reusable pads made by the PoP Ghana team
Photo credit: PoP Ghana Team

Lack of access to menstrual health products can result in significant embarrassment and discomfort that makes it harder for girls to concentrate and learn at school. 

PoP’s WASH (Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene) program seeks to change that by teaching boys and girls how to make sustainable and reusable sanitary pads. 

Why reusable pads in Ghana PoP schools

Disposable pads are the most common sanitary products used by people from all walks of life. On average, a student uses about 120 disposable pads in a year. Disposable pads are expensive and contribute greatly to waste in the community. Below are some terrific reasons why PoP Ghana opts for reusable pads in our partner schools.

  • RUMPS are cost effective: Reusable pads last longer as compared to the disposable pads. A disposable pad has limited hours for it to be used and leave learners with no choice but to buy more pads during their period. Reusable pads are sustainable and cost less as compared to the disposable pads. A learner would need at least 10 disposable pads during her menstrual cycle in a month and the cost of these pads is expensive as compared to the reusable pads — which only cost more at the production stage, and allow learners to save money.
  • RUMPS are environmentally friendly: Reusable sanitary pads are an exceptional example of how small changes and personal choices can turn out to make a great positive impact on the environment. The disposable pads take about hundreds of years to decompose. The use of reusable menstrual pads reduces environmental pollution because they contain fibers that decompose in 3 to 5 years.
  • RUMPS provide skill acquisition for learners: Learners are able to acquire life skills such as sewing or needle work during the making of the reusable pads in the schools.

Below are examples of the instructions and activities the PoP team provides and develops with students in different schools and communities.  

Example 1: Instructions on how to use RUMPS

How to use reusable pads

  • Make sure your hands are neat before you touch the pad
  • Pad can be changed at least twice in a day. The heaviness of the girls’ flow will determine how often she can change her pad in a day.
  • After using a pad, neatly remove it, rinse it first in hot water to remove the blood before you wash with soap.
  • After washing, dry it in the sun.  
  • It can be ironed after it dries.
  • Washed pads must be neatly placed in nice paper/rubber bags.  

Example 2: Instructions on how to make RUMPS

Materials

All materials used in making RUMPS are inexpensive, locally found materials. If materials are bought at the market or are secondhand, it is important to thoroughly wash these items before using them.

For the outer part/padholder of the menstrual pad the best materials are made of cotton, which is absorbent, easily washable and unlikely to cause irritation.

Materials needed for padholder/outer part:

  • Cotton bedsheet
  • Use of cotton t‐shirts
  • Use of baby blankets 
  • The material for baby nappies (reusable diapers materials)
  • Pillow cases, etc.
  • Tailors scrap materials, which is usually sold at a very low price.

Materials needed for the pad:

  • Bathing towels made of 100% cotton
  • Other possible materials are polyester, sock materials, second hand towels, etc.

Materials needed for sewing:

  • Manila card or cardboard for the pattern or design  
  • Thread, buttons, needles and ribbon
  • Another alternative is borrowing needles from family and friends and reusing buttons from other clothing items
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Scissors 

Making the pad

Pad holder:

  • Trace a pad on a manila card to get the pattern (length 30cm and the wings 20cm)
  • Cut out the pattern 
  • Place the pattern on the fabric, trace and cut out (double the fabric)
  • Stitch together 
  • Fix loops on the upper and lower parts of the holder  
  • Fix your snaps or buttons or Velcro

Pad:

  • Measure and cut out the pad using 24cm length all round (should be doubled)
  • Stitch pad together using blanket stitch   

Feedback

Feedback is always necessary for every project to be successful. The team received feedback from the adolescent boys and girls regarding the RUMPS activities in schools. According to them, the training session is a great initiative that needs to be employed in all schools if possible.

Some adolescent girls indicated that the introduction of the reusable pad has enabled them to reduce the use of the disposable sanitary pads, which was expensive to afford. Training of both sexes together has resulted in the girls feeling more comfortable to talk about menstruation around the adolescent boys.

The team was informed by the adolescents about unavailability of materials which made it difficult for the girls to make more pads to use. Also, getting 100% cotton fabric was a challenge to the girls.

Way Forward

Based on the feedback from the adolescents, the WASH team thinks it will be ideal to provide materials/a kit for the adolescent girls after a training session to enable them to make a few pads to use. The team intends to involve more boys and male teachers in the schools and if possible include male parents in the training sessions.