Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Pad Project: Sewing Cloth Pads for Girls in Developing Countries

About 3 weeks ago I pitched a crazy dream to a friend. "Let's sew cloth pads for girls in developing countries." Without missing a beat, she excitedly jumped on board and we started a project that has awed me in the power of God's work.

As a young girl starting your period is the rite of passage. In the US we don't really make a big deal out of it, it's typically discussed between a mother and daughter and later maybe her friends. There is no outside marker to show this physical change, though this girl may feel a time of pride or even confusion. But her life goes on as normal - she will continue to go to school, try to work through the discomfort at sports practice and learn how to live with this on a monthly basis.
In other parts of the world this same rite of passage can be mean the end of your educational career. She is unable to have it discreetly because of a lack of sanitary products. She may become very ill because her lack of options in materials that she can use or how she's able to wash them. Her culture may require her to be physically secluded because of the fear of evil spirits. Even in developed nations she may not be allowed in the kitchen or to touch her father. The typical response is exclusion. 
I can't imagine being in a world where a completely natural and NECESSARY biological function to mankind removes me from what I want or need to do. 
This idea has been bouncing around in my head for several months. I know that I live in a highly privileged world where I worry for very little, especially my period. I have been consciously searching for ways where I can use this privilege to make a change. It was recently reignited when I read the stories about Flo, a handheld washing, drying and carrying device for cloth pads and Kiran Ghandi who ran a marathon while "free bleeding." My journey began by applying the desire for a world where everyone is equally valued to something very small and simple- giving some girls pads so that they can continue on their lives without being hindered by unreasonable fears. It doesn't matter to me whether I change four girls lives or 40. Each one deserves this very basic dignity.

I can't wait to dive further into this topic of education, health and sanitation and sociological response to menstruation. It makes sense - I have a degree in Sociology. This is the stuff I would have spent hours devouring while in college and especially now, as the mother of two daughters, I see clearly why this is an important topic for me to discover and share with anyone who will listen.
Why cloth pads, you might ask. Disposables are surely easy for us to come by and donate. In our culture using cloth versus disposables is usually a matter of choice. Think about it this way - how much does a pad cost in The United States? Pennies. Disposable items are very cheap for us. In other countries it's the exact opposite. It is a luxury to throw something away after using it once. A luxury that most of the world does not have.  Providing a girl with a set of disposable pads will help her for a matter of hours. Cloth pads, on the other hand, have a lifespan of years.

My friend, Kelsey, and I brought this concept to several like-minded women and our idea has spread like wildfire. A large part of our project goals was to use as much material available to us that is simply laying around the house. Items like fabric remnants from previous projects, worn out bed sheets and receiving blankets that were waiting for a someday baby. Quickly several women came forward with yards and yards of their fabric stashes, purchased KAM snaps and several have donated their time to help us put these together. Many recognize the need and importance of this project and they are eager to step forward to help make this happen. I can't believe how blessed we have been.
A common question is "where will they go?" We are currently working to complete our first goal in providing a set of 8 pads per girl in our MOPS group participation in Operation Christmas Child, which is 64 pads total. With the help of others, we are also striving to include a bar of soap, a set of underwear and a wet bag per stash too. Operation Christmas Child will be our primary vehicle in sending this first shipment but we want to continue beyond that. We have several contacts in various organizations and missions, and we are working on narrowing down where we feel they would best go.

In this picture you'll see our little "booster" pads included too. We made these thinner boosters to lay on top of the pad to add for extra absorbency on heavier days.

And that's kind of what has been on my heart and mind for the last month! xoxo


  1. What a blessing you are to these girls! I am just beginning to sew but I want to do similar "projects" once I can sew better.

  2. Have you found an organization yet to distribute these? I have also been wanting to do this but I don't know what a good organization is that's legit. How do I know they won't be sold once they get there? It would be nice to find a Christian group. Have you have any success? Thanks.

  3. Pads for teenage girls in developing countries has been on my mind since I bought my teenage daughter some cloth pads recently. I've been looking for a pattern and instructions online, but I've got to admit I'm pretty clueless. I'd like to sew some for my next group Operation Christmas Child boxes. I know that this post is old, but if you happen to see it and have any advice you'd like to share, I'd be most grateful!

    1. Hi Bev! Yes, there are tons of resources out there. This facebook group is full of support and patterns:

      Good luck!



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