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SBCC students partner with local nonprofit on Rwanda pad project

The Channels Opinion Pages | Guest Column

Grace Stanley, Guest Columnist

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Most people don’t consider how women and girls deal with menstruation in developing countries. Due to this subject being taboo in their cultures, little has been done to create a solution for dealing with these women’s periods.

Current available methods for feminine hygiene are mostly ineffective and problematic, including old rags, bark and leaves, and disposable pads that are widely unaffordable.

This problem is made more complex through social norms which prevent women from being able to hang up their stained rags to dry. Instead women hide them, not allowing them to dry or get cleaned properly, which can subsequently leads to them harboring disease.

Local nonprofit, World Dance for Humanity, is bringing a sustainable solution to women in Rwanda: reusable cloth pads.

The Pad Project began in July 2016 when World Dance was traveling to Rwanda. The group stopped at Direct Relief International where they received 60 Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pad Kits designed by a nonprofit dedicated to feminine hygiene, called Days for Girls.

Each of the kits included a set of soft flannel pads, two shields with a protective liner that holds the pad in place, soap, a washcloth, underwear, and plastic bag for washing the pads.

These pads are especially innovative in that their fabrics feature extremely bright colors and different patterns so that menstruation stains are less visible. Allowing for the women to hang them up to dry, therefore allowing them to get properly cleaned.

When World Dance for Humanity presented these pads to the women in Rwanda, the responses were overwhelming. Women were literally screaming with joy when they saw how the pads worked with a snap to hold them in place. They were like nothing they had ever seen before. After using and loving these pads, World Dance’s Rwanda Team talked with the Rwandan women about producing the pads themselves.

In December, four of the young village women that World Dance works with stepped forward to lead the project in their own communities. By February, they were attending a two-week Days for Girls training course in Uganda. The course gave them a new found independence and education about pad-making, soap-making, marketing the pads, and about women’s reproductive health and hygiene.

Through World Dance’s mission to unite communities across the world, they have launched a similar project in Santa Barbara. The Carpinteria Community Church Crafty Ladies sewing group is now sewing the pads for the pad kits.

World Dance for Humanity interns at SBCC and The Feminist Club at SBCC have also partnered to plan a Pad Party where they will assemble and raise funds for the kits. This collaboration between women from different continents, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and vastly different age groups was all created through a common ground: menstruation.

For only $5, you can sponsor a pad kit for a Rwandan woman, and include a personal note to her. The pads are a simple product that harness the power to not only change the lives of women in fundamental way, but also perpetuate a shift in social structures.

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SBCC students partner with local nonprofit on Rwanda pad project