Padmad, Initiative on reusable sanitary pad in Kenya
PadMad, co-founded by Madhvi Dalal, is a social enterprise that has worked in Kenya and Somaliland on addressing period poverty. PadMad introduced biodegradable, reusable sanitary pads combined with Menstrual Health Management and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights education to prevent any infections and bring awareness within the adolescent groups.
Organization PadMad Kenya (Seren Associates Ltd)
This initiative addresses the issues of access, affordability, sustainability, and environmental responsibility.
The program has benefited thousands of girls and boys across Kenya by keeping them in school and preventing them from resorting to prostitution to pay for disposable pads. PadMad pads are made from 100% cotton and are entirely eco-friendly and significantly cheaper than alternatives. In turn, Madhvi has built her larger vision to make the program self-sustaining, by empowering women at the heart of this social-entrepreneurial model. As part of its program, PadMad and its partners generate employment for hundreds of women in underprivileged parts of Kenya that make these reusable sanitary pads.
Madhvi’s regular trips to the slums teaching Yoga and Dance brought her face to face with the period-poverty-problem in Kenya. This is where the journey of PadMad began in 2018. Several girls timidly explained their absenteeism and embarrassment about menstrual leakage during class time. They shared their inability to participate in sports or other activities just because of the lack of sanitary pads. Some resort to sleeping with taxi drivers and use transactional sex for pads. Others use mattresses, dirty cloth, newspapers, etc. This leads to problems such as infections and skin rashes, while mattresses would stick to the skin in sensitive areas.
In Kenya, 65% of females cannot afford sanitary pads and nearly half the population of Kenya households earn less than KSH 10,000 (USD 100) per year and 36% live below the poverty line. On average, girls in Kenya are absent for 4.9 days a month from school. This is mainly because of the lack of accessibility and affordability of clean sanitary products.
In the world, thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste are generated every month. On average, a woman uses about 11,000 pads and tampons throughout her lifetime. The waste generated from their use takes between 500-800 years to decompose, leaving a carbon footprint that outlives her and future generations.
PadMad vision is to keep as many girls as possible in school, and away from transactional sex; and to uplift lives through improved tools for menstruation and to positively impact the environment through responsible waste management. And Making an Impact on Women’s Health, Infection Control, Education, Water and Sanitation, the Economy and the Environment.
The key activities of PadMad are
- -To Educate, Enable and Empower women and girls on hygiene, Menstrual Health Management (MHM) and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), their role in economic and environmental responsibility within the eco-system.
- -To empower marginalized women to manufacture the pads and participate meaningfully in local economies and raise their standings within households and communities.
PadMad pads are entirely eco-friendly and biodegradable and are significantly cheaper than available alternatives and more affordable than disposables in the long run, a kit of these pads cost 10 USD. As part of its program, PadMad and its partners generate employment for hundreds of marginalized women parts of Kenya by manufacturing 100% biodegradable natural cotton pads with colorful Kenyan designs and different sizes and features. They use 100% natural cotton material which is breathable and friendly to the skin and is much easier to clean and reuse hygienically. PadMad pads last at least TWO years.
Distribution of long-lasting reusable pads hugely saves logistic resources and bridges delivery gaps within the distribution chain, therefore, decreasing overall long-term costs. Alternatives e.g. 12-month life cycle reusable pads made of synthetic fleece and Polyurethane Laminate( PUL) is essentially not biodegradable and cause irritations and skin rashes in private parts especially if used in hot climates like Kenya. Using natural cotton PadMad pads with eco-friendly dye reduces cramps and cause fewer heat rashes and skin irritations. The two sizes (large and regular) and thickness of pads (to avoid leaks), reversible design with wings ensures confidence of use within the beneficiaries.
In Kenya alone, the statistics are that 65% of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads. However, as we know, period poverty is a global issue and needs to be addressed with sustainable economic and environmental solutions. Our target population will be different within three different demographics. While we focus on low-middle income countries to sell the reusable pads because they are more cost-effective in the long term. In other parts of the world, our value system will focus on environmental and health. Currently, there is a powerful positive environmental movement amongst the younger generations in Sweden, UK and Singapore and Japan, for example. The adolescent girls understand the impact of disposable alternatives on their future, so they prefer to use reusable pads. This export market will target more middle to the upper-income population within the affluent countries. Due to the nature of the product, PadMad may have to adapt their target populations within the different demographics. A regular and premium PadMad kit will be sold to different markets.
The PadMad model has already been adopted in Kenya and Somaliland for over a year. It has been successful and reiterated by testimonials and the growth of the business, in the last 12 months.PadMad will continue to work with its partners and the government for support and contributions. The products are made "by women, for women” in Kenya to support "Build Kenya, Buy Kenya”. The for-profit Business Plan includes expansion of the distribution of pads within East Africa, Rwanda, Malawi, UK, USA and Singapore. This strategic expansion through various channels i.e. e-commerce platforms, donations, retail and export will help with sustainability.
Since its launch in 2018, PadMad has expanded from initiative run by the founder, Madhvi Dalal, to a brand managed by the six-person team. It works with 15 low-income women along its supply chain to produce over 2000 pads a week and has provided reusable pads to 10,982 girls and women in 16 districts in 115 schools and 12 orphanages.
On environmental impact, PadMad’s, use of natural cotton and food-coloring standard dye has contributed positively to the reduction of waste generated and dumped in landfills. On average, 720 disposable pads are prevented going into the landfill by one person over a five year period.
Considering over 10,000 beneficiaries, the potential reduction in waste generated in the five years is the prevention of about 8million disposable pads going into the landfill (based on the assumption that the alternative is disposable pads).
In the medium to long term, PadMad aims to scale its operation to be able to benefit 100,000 girls and women by 2025 and transform the way communities in Kenya perceive menstrual health through tracking changes in attitudes, perceptions and behavior to the use of reusable pads. One of the ways to achieve this is to scale the production of pads and increase the client-based to middle-income girls and women in more developed markets.
The challenges that PadMad currently faces are no government policy for girls and women to use reusable pads over disposable pads. This is largely due to limited understanding of the short, medium and long term social, economic and environmental benefits of using reusable pads, and the well-established dominance of the disposable pad industry in Kenya.
Secondly, there are currently no Government-approved standards set for the quality of reusable pads in Kenya. For this reason, there is no certification for reusable pads produced in Kenya. This creates a barrier for people to have confidence and trust in reusable pads made in Kenya. It also poses a challenge for PadMad to scale its outreach to larger beneficiaries such as refugee camps due to strict protocols set by more established customers, such as the UN or other development agencies, to meet government-approved standards. One of the ways in which these policy challenges can be addressed by PadMad is to continue to increase the awareness of the benefits of using reusable pads in Kenya by collating testimonials and engage in larger organizations, such as the UN and other development agencies to campaign for its use.
The key economic barrier for PadMad is to convince beneficiaries that the unit cost of PadMad's pad is easily recovered after 7-8 months of use, compared with the unit cost of disposable pads. There are also challenges of presenting the attributable evidence that girls and women who use reusable pads gain more confidence in schools, thereby expanding their economic opportunities further down the line. The potential contribution this has to Kenya's productivity needs to be measured, quantified and communicated.
As with most countries around the world, menstrual health is not publicly talked about in Kenya and girls and women are often shamed for it, which leads to low self-esteem and segregation from society. This perpetuates the inequality between men and women in terms of opportunities in life. One of PadMad's challenge is to convince the middle-income group in more developed markets to use reusable pads as a better alternative to tampons (for subtlety) and disposable pads (for convenience). One of the ways in which PadMad can address these challenges is to bring on board high-profile middle-income champions (both men and women) to advocate for the use of reusable pads and portray them as a trendy and stylish essential wear for women, in the drive to change public perception, attitude and behavior.
The supply of good quality cotton is not always constant. Also, Kenya has limited packaging solutions leading to the use of plastic, sealable waterproof bags to store used pads and to make sure cross-contamination is minimal and to use a reusable plastic outer bag with a ziplock. PadMad still looks for state of the art over-locking machines and staff who can run the machine, to benefit hugely in terms of time-saving.
Reusable pads production can easily be replicated given the opportunity to access pure cotton material. Successful adoption and use can be replicated by ensuring that people understand the importance of reusable pads. Therefore, the trainer of menstrual health among local communities is vital. To reach a larger number of people, society needs to understand the importance of menstrual health, and all mysteries and questions that communities have about menstrual health need to be solved and make publicly available. Girls and women also need to be able to understand all the benefits of using reusable pads over disposable pads or tampons. The perception change among its users is key to scaling.
PadMad engages with national and local stakeholders in its implementation. Changing the perception through training and awareness-raising is one of the distinguishing features of PadMad's product. The training is aimed not only at girls and women but the larger community of the school or children's home/institution in which PadMad's pad is being used. This includes village chiefs, parents, friends and family members of girls and women and other community members not necessarily known to the girls and women using the pads. This awareness-raising activity puts girls and women issue at the center of a large community discussion and dispels any misconception that people may have about menstrual health.
Gaps and Challenges have been mitigated by training and educating the girls, women, boys and the community at large.
The endorsement and education on environmental responsibility have also helped with the uptake of the initiative.
PadMad has received contributions from Angel donors, Trusts, Foundations, government, clubs, individuals and corporates. PadMad has two revenue streams: donors and retail sales and the ROI is about 20%.
Contact Details Name: Madhvi Dalal
Organization PadMad Kenya (Seren Associates Ltd)
KEN - Nairobi
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