Commercial sanitary pads are unaffordable to majority of needy schoolgirls and young women in Kenya. Statistics from ministry of education show that over 2.5 million schoolgirls in Kenya cannot afford the pads and, consequently, about 1 million of them miss 3.6 million school days each month. This makes them disadvantaged to compete fairly in academics, leads to low self-esteem due to associated stigma, higher drop-out rates and in some regions, makes them vulnerable to early marriage.
There is therefore a need to develop an alternative sanitary protection pad for the needy pubescent school girls and poor young women. Different regions in Kenya are endowed with varied raw materials that can be appropriately value added into making quality and affordable sanitary hygiene management pads.
Banana stem wastes materials offer suitable alternatives for processing pulp for use in making the absorbent sanitary pads. To reduce the cost of production and consequent products, a simple, low cost technology can be adopted for making the sanitary pads.
Pad Heaven Initiative has partnered with the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute to make a prototype of sanitary pads made from banana stem waste and bamboo waste. The team consists of two engineers in charge of the product development. One entrepreneur who is the founder and three employees to head the sales and marketing.
The product will be the first bio-degradable pads in Kenya and will cost half of the cost of the commercial pads, making it easy for girls and women to afford the pads. The project will also help farmers in disposing banana stem waste, which takes years to decompose.
East Africa provides 20% of the worlds supply of bananas. This makes the project easy to scale into neighbouring countries
The sanitary pad making technology basically comprises of the following simple steps.
· Pulverisation: Banana/bamboo pulp is pulverized using a pulverizing machine at high speeds to make it voluminous and fluffy to enhance its absorbency.
· Core Formation: The pulverized pulp is then weighed and pressed in a mould to make the absorbent core/insert of the pad. A pressing unit is used. The amount of the pulp pressed can be varied to form pads with different densities/thicknesses to cater for various menstrual flows.
· Core covering/Sealing: Once the absorbent core is formed, it is then inserted between a breathable non- woven layer on top and a non-permeable polythene sheet on the bottom side to prevent leakage. The three layers are then sealed by a sealing unit of the machine. A release paper is stuck on the bottom side of the pad for securing it on the inner wear during use.
· Sterilizing and packaging: The finished napkins are sterilized for removal of any harmful bacteria or infectious germs by exposing the pad to UV light. The pads are then packed hygienically, ready for use.
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