Three women from Rohri are making reusable pads for an affordable and sustainable menstrual hygiene solution
I recently visited Mohenjo Daro for the UN Women Pakistan’s #KoiJawazNahi Campaign and there I had the incredible opportunity to meet three inspiring women — Perveza, Gul Shama, and Raheela. These amazing ladies, all hailing from UC Long Bhatti in Sukkur’s Rohri, are making reusable pads.
I had the opportunity to interview them and learn how they are breaking barriers in a place where, traditionally, women tend to stay indoors after marriage.
Images: How did your journey begin and what prompted you to venture into the production of sanitary pads?
Perveza: We are from UC Long Bhatti in Rohri. We initially started our journey by crafting handmade items like ralli, rope baskets, and different types of handwoven textiles but later transitioned to commercial pads after discovering more advanced options available globally.
Recognising the demand for affordable and reusable alternatives in our villages, we embarked on a mission, supported by the UN Women initiative, to create a new, innovative product that could potentially establish a cheap, reusable sanitary pad market.
Images: What sets your sustainable menstrual hygiene solution apart from commercial products?
Raheela: Our pads consist of four layers — a soft cotton top layer, synthetic fibres for the inner layer, non-woven fabric, and a micro-fleece sheet to prevent leakage. The pads are not only soft and easy to use but also washable and reusable, making them more sustainable and eco-friendly compared to commercial alternatives that are neither commercially nor ecologically viable.
Images: How do you address the ecological impact of your product?
Gul Shama: We are acutely aware of the ecological impact of our product, and how the ability to wash and reuse our pads contributes to environmental safety.
Raheela: [Our pads] can be used by washing them repeatedly, which will keep the environment safe and us as well!
Images: In addition to ecological sustainability, what role does affordability play in the creation of your products?
Gul Shama: Affordability is a crucial aspect of our initiative. Priced at Rs50 each, our pads are significantly more affordable than commercial brands. This affordability addresses the issue of wasteful spending on disposable pads and provides underprivileged women with a reusable and cost-effective alternative.
Parveza: We frequently come across individuals in urban areas who consistently dispose of sanitary pads, resulting in unnecessary financial waste. This is why we initiated the production of cloth pads for underprivileged women. Our pads are reusable, offering a sustainable alternative to commercially purchased ones that are used once and then discarded, incurring repetitive expenses.
Images: How are you making your products accessible to the community, and what impact is the initiative having on the local economy?
Gul Shama: Currently, we sell our products through small-scale exhibitions in villages and have plans to expand marketing through local shops and social media. The project not only provides economic opportunities for us but also benefits women in the villages by offering them access to cheap and reusable pads. Additionally, around 200 other women involved in the pad-making process are gaining job opportunities, contributing to their economic well-being.
Images: How does the initiative address cultural challenges surrounding menstruation in Pakistan?
Parveza: On the cultural front, the project aims to break the silence around menstruation and promote menstrual hygiene. Many [people in] villages in Pakistan still use rags and cloth during menstruation, exposing women to reproductive and urinary tract infections.
Gul Shama: We actively raise awareness about menstrual hygiene through training sessions, distributing pads for free to women in villages, and educating them on the advantages of using these pads for comfort and health.
Images: How can people support this initiative or order these reusable pads?
Raheela: The initiative needs help to make the pads widely available. Interested individuals can drop us a message on WhatsApp (+92-315-799-8741) to place orders.
Gul Shama: With about 200 women in our village, we can produce up to 100 pads a day.
All photos by Waqas Rabbani, @JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube. Cover image — R to L: Gul Shama, Perveza, author and lady health worker, Majeeda