Updated: Sep 12, 2019
The charity 'Padding Africa' has again teamed up with Zimbabwean women, to provide training and materials for the production of reusable sanitary pads for underprivileged girls in Africa. The team recently completed a 3,000 km journey, delivering materials and training to five women's community groups and distributing the pads at rural schools and villages. The training and materials not only deliver new skills and a source of income for women in the rural communities, they provide local girls with much needed sanitary pads, giving them independence, dignity and hope for a brighter future.
Padding Africa's Director and founder, Tanya Puncuh, grew up in Zimbabwe and knew the hardship many rural women and girls in developing African counties face. Inspired by a volunteer project she joined, distributing shoes to struggling rural Zimbabwean families, Tanya sought to find ways to help rural families further. While she was there she saw the struggle women had with feminine care. Girls would try to stop the blood with dry leaves, chicken feathers, sand and even dung, and at times would stay home and dig and sit in a hole. With no access to sanitary products, girls regularly stay off school during their menstruation, causing them to fall behind and often drop out of school completely. This inspired Tanya to crowd-fund for machines and materials to make reusable sanitary pads. She supplied these to a local women's sewing group in Zimbabwe with materials and they were soon producing the reusable pads alongside school uniforms, which were donated to local school girls.
Driven by the excellent working relationship the Zimbabwean women had developed, Tanya created 'Padding Africa', which enabled her to take a small group of the women to a rural community in Sussundenga, Mozambique, where they brought women in the Sussundenga community together and set them up with sewing machines and materials. They taught two groups of women how to make reusable sanitary pads which they could sell to their local community, enabling them to buy more materials and become self-sustainable, and pads were donated to local school girls.
Tanya has since returned to Zimbabwe and expanded the project into Zambia, where she and the Zimbabwean women successfully set up and trained five groups of women to make and sell the pads. The engagement of the community in Zambia was encouraging, with both women and men visiting the stall to buy pads for themselves or family members.
Tanya thought the best thing about the project was "Seeing all the women together smiling and enthusiastic". She said:
"We're just giving them something sustainable they can work with. It's amazing how so little can make such a difference. I received a lovely hand-delivered letter from a girl thanking us and emphasising what a difference these pads make to young girls."
Padding Africa have another trip planned this year, which will set up sewing groups in anti-poaching communities in a South African conservation area, and in two locations in Mozambique. There are opportunities to join this once-in-a-lifetime journey, for which more information can be found on Padding Africa's website.