When I first heard about Tampax and Always donating disposable menstrual supplies to girls in africa who were otherwise using very unsuitable materials or missing school entirely because of their periods my first thought was, “But that doesn’t solve the problem! If anyone’s giving them anything it should be well-sewn reusable cloth pads!”
After all, giving them a tampon or pad here or there doesn’t solve the long-term problem (it’s the old teach a man to fish/give a man a fish problem… kinda), because once used that particular gift cannot be used again. Disposable one-use products keep people dependent on the giver as long as the giver deigns to give, and then back where they started afterwards. They are a problem of disposal in areas without the kind of trash collection that happens here, and even here they’re a problem because they decompose, if at all, only very slowly, and contain chemicals and plastics which are environmentally very problematic. So that seemed to me to be at best only slightly better than no help at all.
Cloth pads seemed like a superior solution, in areas with a dependable water supply for washing anyway. They can last years and years (I’ve been using the same cloth pads for six or seven years now, and I used them travelling in Australia, India, and Japan, soaking and hand-washing as I went and it worked well. It certainly felt more convenient to carry my 6 cloth pads and keeper/diva cup than it did to either carry a pack of disposables (more needed because they’re *not* as absorbent and certainly not reusable) or try to purchase them wherever I was, and then to dispose of them, especially in areas where I knew that the main method of trash disposal was burning.
Well, that’s what Goods 4 Girls is all about – supplying girls with cloth pads. The cloth pads will be collected here in North America (Seattle, WA, actually) and then will be distributed by aid agencies working on the ground in Africa. Check out their frequently asked questions to answer all those nagging questions you have, and then just do it.
There’s a list of pad makers on the site who are eager to help with donations, and a bunch of links to patterns for making them from scratch. After looking through the list, it seems the best bang for your buck for donating is from Dianne’s Diapers. She is local to the main group and will throw in a fifth pad if you buy four for $5.50. That means you can donate 5 pads for only $21 US, no shipping needed. That’s a decent donation!
All of the rest have pads starting at closer to $10-$12, so it costs more for less. Party in my Pants Pads (which name, by the way, I adore for sheer unself-conscious goofiness) will throw in a freebie if you donate two, but with their base price of $12 that means you’re only sending 3 for $24, not quite as good a deal.
Making them yourself would be even cheaper, if you have the time and a good serger and machine.
What I’ve done:
- donated pads via both Dianne’s Diapers and Party in my Pants
- the research to figure out the best deal for pre-made pad donation
- brought it to your attention.
What I’d like you to do:
- tell other folks
- donate, some way or another, if you can ($21 for 5, seriously! How can you go wrong?)
- comment and let me know if you’ve donated or passed it along