HannahPads Australia and School’s A Gift partnered together to provide five high-achieving teenagers in Ethiopia with their own HannahPad set of washable menstrual pads.
Founder & Director of School’s A Gift, Georgina Fenton sat down with the girls to talk all things periods and provide them with all the tips to use and wash their HannahPads!
The girls explained that they manage their periods by using pads they make at home from scraps of material or rags, such as old torn up old pieces of clothing. They are not very absorbent so there is a lot of worry that they may leak, especially at school or out in public. The girls said disposable maternity pads are rarely used by girls living in rural areas because they are far too expensive, they are not widely available to purchase, and the embarrassment associated with purchasing pads from a shop. They also told me that some girls don’t use any menstrual hygiene management (MHM) products at all and so to manage their periods those girls must isolate themselves during menstruation.
Around 20% of girls in Ethiopia miss school due to menstruation each year and most of those girls are those that use hand-made pads or those that have no access to any menstrual hygiene management (MHM) products. Beginning menstruation is also a well-recognised cause of girls dropping out of school altogether across developing countries. At least one in 10 African girls either skip school during menstruation or have to drop out of school.
The Scholarship girls had never seen pads like HannahPads! Their comments included, “they are so soft”; “they are really pretty”, “they are really well made”, “I didn’t know these existed” and of course “thank you”. As the girls are already washing their hand-made cloth pads, they explained it would not be difficult to follow the HannahPad washing instructions. These girls are lucky that they have access to safe water for hygiene purposes, which many people in Ethiopia do not have.
Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is an essential part of menstrual health management. In Ethiopia, 95% of rural school girls do not have access to toilet facilities or water access in their schools. This means girls often don’t have a private place for changing menstrual pads, proper facilities to dispose of MHM products or the ability to wash their hands after toilet use. All of these factors influence a girl’s decision on whether she will attend school during her period. It is for this reason that School’s A Gift also focuses on providing inclusive, accessible toilets with menstrual hygiene facilities as well as access to water on-site at schools for handwashing.
There is also the need for broader conversations and education around menstrual hygiene management to address social and cultural taboos associated with menstruating and promote hygienic practices. Georgina’s sit-down with these girls was one of the few opportunities they had been given to freely chat about menstruation and ask questions! We hope this is the beginning of these girls opening a dialogue around menstruation!