Rethinking Reusable Pads for Women and Girls With Disabilities

The invention of reusable pads brought so much joy and celebration among women, girls, feminists and women organizations. The reusable pads were celebrated for obvious reasons which include: you buy it once and go for months with the same pad, making them cheaper than disposables in the long run; In terms of the environment they are preferred because they are reused which means much less waste is thrown away and less waste formed during manufacturing which is a plus to the effort to reducing carbon emissions.

However, last week ICODZIM, during its last Friday of the month meeting with women and girls with disabilities found out that there is need to rethink and reconsider the use of reusable pads. The last Friday of the month meetings are dedicated for women especially women with disabilities to discuss the challenges they are facing in accessing sexual reproductive health.

It emerged during the meeting that young women with disabilities do not want to use them, especially those with physical impairments.Sister Maria from Zimcare Trust said,’We have girls with multiple disabilities and different types of disabilities and reusable pads are a burden for our girls especially those with mental and intellectual impairments.” The female teacher from M Hugo School for the Blind concurred and mentioned that most parents are now forcing their children to use contraceptives such as No plant and Jadelle so they do not menstruate or fall pregnant, a clear violation of their sexual reproductive rights.

One of the teachers who didn’t want to be mentioned highlighted that female students were refusing to take and use reusable sanitary pads.She highlighted that at her school, one of the special schools in the province (name withheld) they have a lot of boxes of donated reusable pads including material to make more but they were just stoked in their school storeroom because young women (all girls at the school have disabilities) refused to use them simply because they feel that its a burden to have to change during lessons, pack them in the bag, carry them home to wash them after school or in the hostel later.

The young women with disabilities reiterated that reusable pads require extra effort of hygiene and were a burden to them, especially those with visual impairments. Cultural beliefs also proved to be one of the reasons there has been not much use of reusable pads. Chiedza argued that at,”school it’s better imagine when I’m home having to wash the pads and hang them outside on the washing line for everybody to see that I’m on my menses.’ Menstruation continues to be a private matter in most families.

ICODZIM realized that now is the time for organizations and entrepreneurs to start investing in innovative, convenient sanitary wear that is affordable, at the same time meeting the diverse needs of women and girls. This includes investing in biodegradable disposable sanitary pads from banana stems and pine apple fibers.

Source: Institute for Community Development in Zimbabwe TRUST (ICODZIM)