I (Kallie) recently sat down with Tia Carlita (Auntie Carla), a psychologist who works at Casa de la Amistad—a vulnerable children's project that serves kids living in prison—to find out what the typical experience was like for the girls she works with. Carlita shared that she knew exactly which of the girls had started their periods because at some point they would come ask her for money to buy sanitary pads. It can be a huge burden on families, expressed Carlita, especially for those with more than one girl. These young women will often wear their pads for much too long in order to make one pack last, which is neither comfortable nor healthy.
While I was in Canada, one of CBM's supporting churches, Neepawa FBC from Manitoba, approached me with a unique idea. Their church has an enterprising group of women who love sewing and offered to make reusable (washable) pad packs for vulnerable women involved with CBM projects in Bolivia.
In each pack there are:
- 2 waterproof shields that snap on to your underwear
just like pads with wings.
- 9 tri-fold absorbent felt pads that fit into the shields. These can be swapped out when they get dirty and also unfold into squares so they dry quickly.
- A plastic zip lock bag. Dirty pads go in this waterproof bag for easy transport and allow the pads to soak in water for easy cleaning.
- 2 new pairs of underwear
- Washcloth and soap
The girls, after blushing and hiding their eyes for a few minutes, were thrilled to receive the pads, especially when they heard that one pack can last for three years! Within no time we were bonding over our shared experiences, and some of the older girls began offering wisdom to those new to the club. They even started swapping pad colours to customize their packs.
I later arranged to speak with the mothers of the children involved in these programs as well. They immediately saw the value in the product and in addition to personally wanting to try them out when we get more, some shared an interest in learning to make the pads themselves, possibly as a product to sell.
Often times the things we’re most uncomfortable talking about are the things that need the greatest attention. For now this is just a pilot project, but so far it is proving to address a significant struggle amongst Bolivian women.