THE PAD PROJECT
Developing a sustainable, financially accessible and culturally-appropriate pad alternative.
Local convenience stores often mark up their prices, presumably to account for the transportation costs of bringing goods from the city center to La Zona Sur. Respondents cited that a typical pad would be twice as expensive in the convenience store as in the city center. A pack of menstrual pad that lasts for 3 days was reported to cost around 7 bolivianos (1 USD), which may be a significant burden for families that earn less than 50 bolivianos per day.
While costs are cheaper in the cancha, or the large open street market in the city center, it located approximately 10 kilometers from La Zona Sur, which represents a door to door travel time of 1-2 hours by public transportation. Residents who spend the day working may not have the 3-4 hours necessary to go to the cancha. A round trip to and from the cancha costs 6 bolivianos per person, which is a financial burden for many.
"I feel dirty all the time, so therefore I must be a dirty person. Menstruation is dirty, periods are dirty, and period blood is dirty."
Lack of adequate menstrual materials leads to self-esteem issues, stemming from the idea that menstruation is dirty. Women and girls reported missing school or work, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or stigmatized, or experiencing health problems as a result of poor menstrual hygiene. When asked what is expelled from the body during menstruation, one respondent responded la sangre que no sirve or “the useless blood”. Another described menstruation as the elimination of blood that is not used. Several others responded that it is la suciedad, or the “dirtiness” that leaves the body each month. Women also reported feeling discomfort while buying FHP from male store owners.
Our final prototype contains four basic components: a bamboo fleece top layer, a microfiber middle layer, and a polyurethane laminate (PUL) waterproof outer layer. The bamboo fleece is the first absorbent hydrophilic layer that promotes fast absorption. The microfiber is the second absorbent, hydrophilic layer that supplements absorption ability. The blue PUL layer is the exterior waterproof layer to sustain the longevity of the pad.
Each pad costs less than $3 to make with American materials, and less than $1 with Bolivian materials. These pads were distributed to 11 women in Cochabamba (4 each) who will give feedback on the pads and supply advice for improvement throughout the following months. Currently, the Claremont College chapter of Refresh Bolivia is working on perfecting the menstrual pad design and the Cambridge pad team members continue to work with Refresh Bolivia on other projects.