Reusable Sanitary Pads in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in Nigeria

Raquel Daniel
Posted June 18, 2019 from Nigeria

I work with teenage girls and children focusing on education and empowerment. One of our project provides free sanitary pads for girls in poor communities and the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Abuja.  A few people have reached out to me about reusable cloth pad asking about sustainability. While we will like to give the girls at the IDP camp reusable cloth pads, knowing it will keep thousands of disposable feminine hygiene products out of landfills and save money for the girls by not having to buy pads each and every month. We’re also aware of the challenges of reusable sanitary pads in the camps.  Truth is, majority of the girls already use reusable cloth as pads and others use tissue paper, however, we spoke to a few of them and many shared the following concern.

1. The easiest way to clean the pads is to just toss them into the washing machine but they have none and even though air drying is also great, there’s nowhere private to dry the pads in the camp. 

2. Some said the men in their families didn’t know what the piece of cloth was for and they unknowingly used it to wipe their shoes and some, the floor. 

3. For some, the reusable cloth hurt their thigh really badly and makes walking unbearable when they wear it. (This can give blisters on their thigh too). Yes, most cloth pads are estimated to last up to five years if they’re properly cared for. But the reality of the girls in the camp is completely different. They cannot properly care for the sanitary pads in their current situation. Some currently dry their piece of cloth in their rooms and because it’s not properly dried, sometimes it smells. 

On June 5th, 2019. We educated and provided free sanitary pads enough for 3 months to 50 girls at the new kuchigoro IDP Camp in Abuja. Our team will be at the Karon Majigi and Gongola IDP Camp to educate 50 girls and provide free sanitary pads enough for three months and underwear to them.

Until we find a solution to the challenge of drying the pads, we’ll really love to provide disposable sanitary pads.

This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 17

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Jill Langhus
Jun 18
Jun 18

Hi Raquel,

Thanks for sharing your lovely photo and inquiry post. I have reached out to a couple of sisters to see if they can shed some solutions on this challenge. I will let you know what I hear back. Thanks for providing solutions for these girls.

Hope you're having a great day!?

Raquel Daniel
Jun 18
Jun 18

Thank you!

Jill Langhus
Jun 19
Jun 19

You're welcome, dear. I hope you'll be able to directly use Feka's feedback below to improve your challenges?! Please let us know.

Hope you have a great day, and week, too:-)

Lisbeth
Jun 18
Jun 18

Thanks for sharing this nice post with experiences. Did you said its,(reusable pads) must be wash in a washing machine? If I got you right! I personally have started using reusable pads. You do not need washing machine to wash it, well if you have one that is okay but it can be wash thoroughly with the hand and clean water, later you dry it under the hot sunlight and you are good to go. Some can be iron if you want too.
Secondly, you talked about men using it to clean their shoes? Oh how? Why should such delicate item be displayed any how? It must be kept in a clean dry play, out of reach to children etc. And beside I think maybe less awareness is done about it in the home. If your Dad, brother, husband knows the purpose of it they will not use it to clean their shoes. So they need to be informed. Is that how an handkerchief looks? Or a napkins look? I hope am not getting sensitive haha! I am sure with much education all will go well. Its very comfortable to use, at the same time environmental friendly.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask me. Have a great day!

Raquel Daniel
Jun 18
Jun 18

No ma’am, that’s not what I mean.
I’m making a case for girls in IDP camp who have no access to clean water and nowhere clean to dry their napkins. They already use cloth and complain the problem with that is the men unknowingly use it to wipe their shoes.

What I’m saying is, it’s great, it might not be the ideal for the girls in these camps

Lisbeth
Jun 18
Jun 18

Oh its like a refugees camp kind off. Hmm then sanitation issue will be difficult with lack of portable water. Are there no boreholes there? I think those water are clean enough for washing them?
I am wondering, how do they dry their clothes after washing? Same way they can dry the reusable pads? Important is it must be exposed to a lots of sun. I think their culture is also making them shy from exposing the pads in public? Or maybe am wrong? After all these if still is not possible then best way is they use the disposables until all is accessible. With the uneasiness, I think its the type of fabrics used. Is it locally produce? If is ordered from a company or factory, you can report about your findings concerning the poor quality. Ooh yaa, this is really hard. Thanks for sharing.

Raquel Daniel
Jun 21
Jun 21

Yes, culture makes it hard to dry pads in public.

Hannah B
Jun 18
Jun 18

HI Raquel,
Thank you so much for sharing this post!
It is helpful to understand more about the issues faced by girls and women when using sanitary pads. I wish you and your team all of the best as you work on your next project!
Kind regards,
Hannah

Raquel Daniel
Jun 21
Jun 21

Thank you Hannah!

Feka
Jun 18
Jun 18

My dear Raquel,
Good to read about what you do with menstruation. Congratulations!
I have, for the past 4 years worked on Menstrual Hygiene Management and specifically with reusable sanitary pads.
1. The girls using the pads and having difficulty in walking or blisters maybe due to the fact that the fabric used isn't appropriate and isn't skin friendly. Pure cotton/flannel /fleece won't cause friction or blisters.
2. I work in typical rural communities and Refugee camps. Men like women, have to be taught about menstruation and Menstrual Hygiene Management. If this is done, there won't be any complex or shame or whatever. Secondly, provide them a dignity bag in which they will keep the pads after their periods so that it's kept in a safe corner only to be used during the next flow.
3. Taking into consideration that they may not have enough space or drying lines, they can dry them wherever they dry their pants and not cover them with other clothes.

The essence is, we are trying to break the stigma around menstruation and so, they must know that pads are not bad. They are as good as their pants and bras.
You can see where what was missing, fix it and it will work.
Thank you

Jill Langhus
Jun 19
Jun 19

Thanks so much, Feka, for your input! Very valuable and useful information:-)

Raquel Daniel
Jun 21
Jun 21

This is gold!.. Thank You!

Feka
Jun 18
Jun 18

Also, reusable sanitary pads are washed with hands, with just clean water and soap. They don't need bleach. In doing your distribution, add buckets for washing.

Kay Link
Jun 20
Jun 20

It's true, there are no easy solutions to these problems. As women like you address these issues directly to find solutions, I hope internally displaced girls will have their needs met very soon and that their situation improves so that they will not face any hard trade offs. Thank you for providing these girls with needed supplies and health knowledge - and for sharing this dilemma with us, so that other women may collaborate and problem solve with this in mind.

Raquel Daniel
Jun 21
Jun 21

Thank You!

Suzan
Jul 25
Jul 25

I want to first use this opportunity to appreciate the awesome work you and your crew are doing. It is highly commendable and I want to say that in IDPs, hygiene is usually a big issue but not one that cannot be address. However I have a question that has been bothering for quite some time. What is the proper way to dispose sanitary towels that have been used and smeared with blood?

Raquel Daniel
Aug 07
Aug 07

Hi Susan, the best way is to wrap in a newspaper or nylon and dispose in a trash. Not in the toilet.