2013 Sani_pad_instructionsIt is a widespread but unacknowledged problem that girls in Africa miss school and stay at home because of menstruation. Help us help them by sewing “Sani-panties”, distributing through Little Dresses for Africa.
According to UNICEF, one in ten schoolgirls in Africa miss classes or drop out completely due to their period, and substitute pads or tampons for less safe and less absorbent materials such as rags, newspaper or bark.
There are many aspects that link girls’ attendance rates to their menstrual cycles. Firstly, the lack of affordable sanitary products and facilities for girls and women keeps them at a disadvantage in terms of education when they are young and prevents their mobility and productivity as women. Secondly, the lack of clean and healthy sanitation such as toilets and running water means that girls often do not have anywhere to change or dispose of pads safely and in privacy at school. Thirdly, the taboo nature of menstruation prevents girls and their communities from talking about and addressing the problem; raising awareness and education to eliminate the stigma of menstruation is a large part of the battle.
UNICEF reports that “in countries where menstrual hygiene is taboo, girls in puberty are typically absent for 20% of the school year”. Most girls drop out at around 11 to 12-years-old, and miss school not simply because they fear being teased by their classmates if they show stains from their period, but also because they are not educated about their periods, and their need for safe and clean facilities is not prioritized. The idea that monthly bleeding is something shameful, polluting, or taboo may also encourage girls to avoid social contact during their period. Additionally, the cultural implications of menstruation as a stage in a woman’s development may be used to take girls out of school – the idea being that if a girl is ready for motherhood, then she is ready for marriage.
Menstruation is a reason for dropping out that can be added to the potential threat of sexual harassment from male teachers as girls develop. In either case, the result is girls lagging behind with schoolwork and performing badly.
Little Dresses for Africa has seen the need among the young girls and women and encouraged our sewers to take part in sewing and sending what we call “sani-panties”. Improvements in sanitation can go a long way to combating the problem. The distribution of these washable pads and the discussion surrounding their use and the resulting good hygiene enables the girls to manage their periods more easily. Thank you for joining us in this life-changing project.
See Pattern below or use your own variation:
1 Cut 3 pieces, on the fold, of soft, good quality flannel fabric. Three layers gives body and durability. Cotton works well; do not use non-absorbent or slippery fabric. Do not use wool as it may irritate sensitive skin.
2 Open all three pieces and stack, inside out.
3 Serge or zigzag around entire outside edge except for one end.
4 Turn stack right side out so that seam allowance is hidden. Rounded or square corners are fine. Snip inside corners and trim outside corners so it turns easily.
5 Center insert in middle of pad. Stitch through all layers, to keep the insert in place.
6 Fold seam allowance on open end to inside. Top stitch around the entire pad.
7 Place snaps on the wings, so they overlap slightly and are the same width as the pad.
1 Cut 2-3 pieces of absorbent liner, 8 x 3.5” from towels, mattress pads or other washable and highly absorbent fabric. If the fabric is not very thick, use 3 pieces.
2 Stitch layers together so they do not separate once inserted in pad.
Tax deductible donations for shipping costs are also accepted through this site. Thanks so much for your help!
Sani-Pantis can be sent to:
Little Dresses for Africa
24614 Curtis Drive
Brownstown, MI 48134
Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if you’d like to be notified when they are received.