OPINION: Restoring girls dignity through proper menstrual hygiene management
By Sharon Kiburi
Since Kenya ratified the Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) policy in May 2020, this important milestone has attracted investors such as Trine Angeline.
She is the producer of SafePad, a unique reusable sanitary pad with antimicrobial bonding technology.
Safepad contains a permanent self-sanitizing antimicrobial treatment that effectively reduces fungi and bacteria during use and after washing, even if contaminated water is used.
In the wake of Covid-19 Pandemic the course to give and distribute Safepad quite key especially for girls and women in informal settlements.
By end of August 2020 this year, over 15000 packets of the Safepad had been distributed and sold in different counties in Kenya.
Trine Angeline is the co-founder and Managing Director of Real Relief Health ApS, an innovative entrepreneurial company based in Denmark Scandinavia.
The company designs manufacture and deliver life-saving sustainable and environmentally friendly relief items for the humanitarian sector and people in need in developing countries.
Trine Angeline has worked in Africa for a long time with the anti-malaria program distributing mosquito nets.
During her time in Africa, she came across many girls whose education was disrupted due to lack of access to sanitary pads.
“A thought occurred to me, as textile experts why don’t we bring a reusable pad to the market,” Trine Angeline recalled.
Initially, she intended to bring a standard reusable wash product. “Then I learnt of the menace of access to clean water, hence reusable pads may cause more hygiene problems,” said Trine Angeline.
They went back to the drawing board and hatched the idea of a permanently bonded antimicrobial technology that kills any bacteria that hits the surface of the pad aiding to reduce vaginal infections.
The pad self disinfects during use and after use. The antimicrobial technology is a positive charge, that attracts the bacteria destroying the cell membranes for the life of the fabric.
“The fabric can be washed up to a hundred times depending on the maintenance, it is safe to say the pad will survive the life of the fabric,” said Trine Angeline.
If the pad happens to be cleaned in contaminated water it can still be hygienic to use since the pad is self-sanitizing using the antimicrobial technology. This makes the pad economically viable for girls and women in Kenya.
“I have used Safepad, I find it comfortable,” Sylvia Mochabo, Ms Africa Elite 2020. She champions for the inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWD) in the area of menstruated health and as my duty to restore dignity to the girl child.
“Using my platform as a model I have made donations to various schools, institutions and persons with disabilities (PWD) women and girls I would gladly recommend Safepads for girls and women,” she says.
She adds: “It is my favourite sleep in the pad as it doesn’t leak as compared to all others that do despite advertising that they don’t.”
She further notes that it is the latest technology of microbial fabric which ensures hygiene even in areas with limited water access. It is environment friendly due to its longevity.
In Kenya, Live Healthy Initiatives partners with Safepad through Real Relief Health.
“We buy Safepad in bulk stock and act as a distribution channel for Safepad Kenya,” said Rachael Kerubo a health practitioner, water sanitation and hygiene expert focusing on sanitation marketing for sustainability.
She is a menstrual hygiene activist and MHM expert, focusing on sustainability in MHM through reusable menstrual products. She is the Chief Executive officer at Live Healthy Initaitive.
Due to its high cost, it is bought by implementing partners for donation, for example Plan International, USAID, UNHCR, County First Ladies and small CBO’s and NGOs.
In a nutshell, Safepad has been bought and supplied in many counties like Nairobi, Kajiado, Laikipia, Narok, Kisii, Garissa, Tana River, Isiolo, Bondo, Kakamega, Mombasa, Nakuru among many other counties
Live Healthy Initiatives is a local NGO that advocates for menstrual hygiene management.
Currently, the Live Healthy Initiatives in collaboration with partners working with refugees embarked on the local production of reusable sanitary pads ‘Kerry pad’, which is a sister to Safepad.
This is to ensure products are owned by the community which make them and also a way of promoting sustainability and livelihood projects for refugees and the host.
The pact pad has four pads three-day pads and one night pad it currently goes for Ksh. 800. This is almost times the disposable pads found in the market.
“The target market often is organisations and NGOs who then distribute the products especially to vulnerable communities and the benefit is that they last for a long time,” said Trine Angeline.
She also said she welcomes partnerships with organisations for local productions of the safe pad product which may, in turn, create jobs and economic empowerment.
There many people who have got allergic reactions from using commercial sanitary hygiene products. This is because some are made of materials that will cause an allergic reaction.
100% cotton sanitary pad is good news, to begin with, says Dr Mutinda Kakuti, a Consultant Obstetrician-Gynecologist who has been practising for nine years. She has worked in both the private and public sectors in Nairobi.
“I am very passionate about all things women’s health particularly in educating, empowering and walking with women in their reproductive health journey,” said Dr Mutinda Kakuti.
Dr Mutinda added: “Let’s restore the dignity of our young girls and women in Kenya, Let our girls not miss a day in school, Let them not sell themselves short via coercion and face defilement/rape because they were trying to get money to buy sanitary hygiene products.”
The cost of the safe pad may be high on the initial purchase but positive benefits and the total cost are worthwhile.
“On average we spend about Ksh. 150-200 per month on the normal commercialized sanitary pads depending on the brand one pack for Ksh. 800 which could last a year plus is a huge saving,” Dr Mutinda explained.
Trine believes in solving problems. She says if having reliable sanitary towels will aid in keeping girls in schools during their monthly periods it would make a difference.
“There is a lot in life to be concerned about, menstruation does not need to be one of them, ”opined Trine Angeline.
The safe pad has the potential to empower women and young girls, while restoring their dignity and addressing the negative side effects emanating from poor MHM, such as stigmatizating, gender inequality, school absenteeism and dropouts.
Sharon Kiburi is a freelance journalist