A few people have asked me how we make the reusable menstrual pads. Since this has been a big part of my service so far, and will continue to be, I wanted to share the step-by-step instructions with all of you.
-Some type of absorbent material
(The Peace Corps Malawi Office provides kits that include enough materials to make 30 pads, which is awesome! Since my site is far from the office in Lilongwe, I cannot always get a kit when I find a group of interested women. I have also bought some of these materials on my own. The items can all be found in larger trading centers throughout the country.)
Some people choose to have the girls or women cut the materials, but so far, I have been cutting everything beforehand, mostly because I only have 2 pairs of scissors at the moment. 😝
In the Pad Project Kits from Peace Corps, there are sample lessons to teach alongside making the pads, and there are also patterns to use.
For every woman, I cut 2 pieces of chitenje and 1 piece of black plastic using the standard shield pattern. I also cut 2 pockets for each pad, (out of chitenje). Every individual will also get a needle, thread, and a button.
Additionally, I cut the absorbent material into smaller squares, which will be handed out at the end of the session.
After giving materials to everyone, we can begin…
1. Each pocket has a rounded side and a flat side. The women will fold the flat side over about 1 cm and sew the seam, for both pockets.
2. The 2 pockets will then be sewn to 1 piece of chitenje, at either end. The women will not sew over the seams they have already made on the pockets… there needs to an opening.
*Some chitenje have a “pretty or right” side and an “ugly or wrong” side. To make the nicest looking pad, it is important to pay attention to that. For step #2, the pockets should be sewn onto the “pretty” side of the chitenje.
3. This tends to be the trickiest step, in terms of getting the order correct. The women will stack the layers as follows: the black plastic piece, then the chitenje with the pockets (“pretty” side facing up) on top of the black plastic, followed by the other piece of chitenje (“pretty” side facing down) on top of that. All 3 pieces need to sewn together leaving a small 1-2 inch opening.
4. The opening will be used to turn the project “pretty” sides out when done.
5. Then the opening needs to be sewn shut.
6. A button is sewn on 1 flap. (Same side that the pockets are on… the front side.)
7. A hole is cut on the opposite flap for the button. The women should sew around the hole so that it does not fray.8. We hand out 2-3 pieces of absorbent material per individual and show them how to put these in the pad. We also go over how to use the pad, along with care and repair instructions. Everything can be washed, which is great! And the women can use a lot of different items for the absorbent material part. They can carry extra pieces with them, when they are away from home, and change them throughout the day. Used material can be stored in small baggies (“jumbos”) until they can be washed.
Throughout the session and at the end, Foster and I discuss HIV, safe sex, and healthy choices. We also talk to the women about the importance of getting tested and where they can go to do so. Foster and I have done the Pad Project with 3 groups of women so far and have plans for more sessions already.
I wrote about this project in a previous post as well, but I want to reiterate how valuable it is. The women all walk away with new knowledge and their own reusable menstrual pad, which will hopefully make their lives a little easier. Below is a link to a recent article I read about Pad Project in Malawi:
Please comment or contact me with any questions! Also, I always love to hear project ideas or cool things you have seen done in other places. 😊