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Cloth Pad Testing Questionnaires – Government School 1

We gave 16 girls* cloth pad testing questionnaires at a government secondary school in rural Tabora, Tanzania earlier this week. You can read about the school in our blog here which details the trip we made in March 2019 to distribute the cloth menstrual pad kits and a little information we learned about this school.

Clockwise from top left: Medium size Zorb insert, Zorb bifolded in wrap, waterproof wrap.
Clockwise from top left: Medium size Zorb insert, Zorb bifolded in wrap, waterproof wrap.

After Cloth Pad Testing Questionnaires

This is the questionnaire we gave to the teens at a government secondary school in Tanzania. We have translated the answers and put them into a spreadsheet. This made the answers to each question easy to see.

Thank you very much for your help testing pads for Project Kidogo. Your advice to us is very important. We hope to help lots of other young people with pads and we are very grateful to you! 🙂

Age
The average age of the teens who received the cloth pad testing questionnaires was just over 16 with the youngest being 13 and the oldest 17 years old

Ease of Wearing Cloth Menstrual Pads

1. Did you find the wraps easy or difficult to put in the knickers?­­­­­­ Explain
All the teens said the wraps were easy to put into the knickers. Some of them explained, “It’s easy because they don’t bother me while wearing them”, “It’s easy because it makes me happy and I have peace of mind”, “It’s easy because it means the pads don’t slip in the knickers so much”, “It’s easy because they don’t give me discomfort” and “Easy because it helps the blood not to penetrate the knickers”.

2. Were the pads difficult or easy to put in the wraps? Explain
All the teens said the pads were easy to put into the wraps. The answers included, “It was easy to put them in and take them out for washing”, “It’s easy because the loops help it not to shift”, “It was easy because they don’t bring me discomfort like a piece of cloth” and “It is very easy and it’s nice”.

3. Were pads comfortable? Explain
Every single girl said that the washable cloth menstrual pads were comfortable. Most of them told us how free they felt wearing them. One teen said, “It made me feel comfortable all the time and when I’m asked a question in class I’m confident enough to stand up and answer” and another said, “It made me free all the time, even when I’m playing and doing hard work, it’s easier”.

Ease of Washing and Drying Cloth Menstrual Pads

4. Were wraps and pads easy or difficult to wash? Explain
In March, the girls who received the kits were told how they could unfold the insert to wash them easily. Again, every single girl said they were easy to wash. One teen said, “It didn’t bother me to wash them because they’re not too thick”. Another said, “Yes it’s easy because when you use them they don’t smell” (these pads were made with Zorb 3D with Silvadur, a trademarked silver thread which is shown to reduce bacterial growth).

5. Were wraps and pads easy or difficult to dry? Explain
All of the teens said that the pads were easy to dry. Beatrice had advised them they would dry fastest in the sun and that this would help to remove any stains and keep them clean and smelling fine. The young women who received the washable pads said, “Yes because after washing it we put it out in the sun”, “Yes it didn’t take long to dry them”, “It’s easy to dry because they dry after half an hour, I don’t worry about it drying”, “It only takes a little bit of time to dry”, and another said, “Yes it’s easy to dry them when you put them out in the sun”.

Comparison of Cloth Menstrual Pads and Kanga Rags

6. Please tell us the advantages of these pads over kanga pieces – were they better?
Usually when a family can’t afford disposable pads they use large sheets of kanga rags folded into bulky and uncomfortable rectangles. One girl told us, “The first advantage is not being bruised in the thighs” – kanga pads are quite thick and can bruise! Every student told us they all prefer the washable cloth menstrual pads they received from Project Kidogo and some of their answers were, “The advantages are that they contain the blood and are easy to dry”, meaning they’re more absorbent than kanga, “It made me feel free all the time”, “Yes first they don’t give out smell and they make me feel confident” (which could be because of the Silvadur or the fact that they don’t look like kanga pieces so the teens are more confident drying them in the sunshine, a natural antibacterial agent). Others said, “Yes they were better because it has the ability to contain the blood without it getting out of the pad”, “The pads are better than kanga because kanga gets full quicker” and “They are better, they help me feel free in the classroom”.

7. Please tell us the disadvantages of these pads over kanga pieces – were they worse?
In the cloth pad testing questionnaires we wanted the teens to feel they could be honest yet every single answer said they couldn’t find any disadvantages over kanga pieces!

Comparison of Cloth and Disposable Menstrual Pads

During our first visit in March, the teacher Andy told us that most of the girls haven’t tried disposable pads at all. They simply don’t have access to them because they are too expensive. We told them not to answer question 8 and 9 unless they have tried disposable pads, and more answered than we anticipated (14 out of 16 but two said they haven’t tried them in the answer). Mya and I think they may be using the information they know about disposables from their friends and family, rather than first hand, as they wanted to try to answer every question for us…
8. Please tell us the advantages of these pads over disposable pads- were they better?
All who answered this question said that the washable pads were superior to disposables. One girl said, “First thing first, they don’t smell as bad” which made us giggle because of her phrasing, and another said, “They don’t give a bad smell and they will last for 10 years”. Many people who use cloth pads in the UK and the USA have said how much better they smell than disposables which often contain chemicals to trap the blood, that let out a very nasty smell. If washable pads are changed at least every 8 hours, they usually smell neutral and I’m so pleased the teens agreed. In next week’s visit to the private school, many more of whom will have tried disposables at least once, it will be interesting to see what they think about the comparison.

Despite the Tanzanian school curriculum including conservation and environmental responsibility, none of the pupils mentioned the environmental impact of disposable pads although two of them said how long the reusable pads would last. From speaking to Tanzanian people they usually don’t realise that disposable pads are even made from plastic, which are usually buried or burnt. We haven’t seen more than a few brands of disposable pads for sale in Tabora or Dar Es Salaam – more research needed, but they don’t seem to have any plastic-free compostable pads here.

9. Please tell us the disadvantages of these pads over disposable pads – were they worse?
Almost all of the teens who answered this question said they couldn’t think of a single disadvantage. Whether they were trying to please us or they genuinely couldn’t think of one, it was nice to know. Only one negative point was raised in, “These pads must be washed” and one neutral answer said, “No it’s not uncomfortable to wash them”. Others said things like, “”Washable pads are better than disposable pads”.

Benefits of Wearing Cloth Menstrual Pads

10. Do you think our wraps and pads will help you attend school or work during your period?
Again, all of the girls said yes to this question. Some of the answers were, “Yes they make me be present during all my studies”, “Yes it also helps me to be very confident at school”, “Yes because it contains the blood and we’re able to attend classes every day without skipping any”, “Yes it helps me to go to school and to feel fresh”, “Yes they make me feel free all the time and any place I sit”, and “Yes they made me attend classes and my studies will do better”.

cloth pad testing questionnaires - Government Secondary School girls on second visit with project leader Mya, Nikki's daughter Ayla and head teacher Immaculate washable cloth menstrual pad kits
Government Secondary School girls on second visit with project leader Mya, Nikki’s daughter Ayla and head teacher Immaculate

In conclusion, the information we received from the cloth pad testing questionnaires was extremely positive and we can only hope we can provide kits to the other teens at this school who need them. On our next visit to this school we hope to distribute to 26 “waisichana” (girls) in Form 3 and Form 4 but we need to pay our project leader and hire a workshop where we can produce them. Please consider donating a small regular amount to us via PayPal to info@projectkidogo.org.uk and every single penny is used directly to make these kits up.

Thanks for reading
Nikki Kamminga
Founder and Trustee
Project Kidogo, part of Tanzanian registered NGO, Foundation for Community Outreach

*see our blog on gendered language (coming soon) for the use of group pronouns. The laws in Tanzania and language barriers make it impossible to ask these young adults their pronouns and they are referred to as “waisichana”, girls, by the teachers so we have decided to use female terms in blogs about specific groups of people. This helps our SEO, or Google rankings, for people looking to help “pads for girls in Tanzania” but please know we are happy to help anyone in need of pads to attend school, for menstruation or continence. Nikki

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Cloth Pads in Tanzania – Government Secondary School 1

Government Secondary School girls on second visit with project leader Mya, Nikki's daughter Ayla and head teacher Immaculate washable cloth menstrual pad kits

Beatrice, Mya, Andi and I distributed some kits of washable cloth pads in Tanzania at a government secondary school in March 2019. We met these initial twenty girls at their government secondary school in a rural village in Tabora, central Tanzania. The girls were mostly menstruating (four had not yet begun) and were chosen as some of the most vulnerable/disadvantaged students in the school.

Cloth Pads in Tanzania - Government Secondary School 1st visit, teen girls, teacher Andy, Nikki, trustee Andi and head teacher Immaculate cloth menstrual pads Tanzania
Government Secondary School girls with washable cloth menstrual pad kits, teacher Andy, Nikki, trustee Andi and head teacher Immaculate

We gave each of them a questionnaire to fill in (see this blog for the questions) and then gave these determined young women* a kit including four pads are taught in Swahili and had little to no English. During the first visit, Beatrice and Mya worked with the children’s teacher Andy, who was absent on the second visit with illness.

We have kept these questionnaires anonymous to protect the twenty children and they had all tried the pads apart from the four who have not started their periods yet. These four girls said their mothers have put the kits away safe for when they’re ready. Sixteen of the students receiving cloth pad kits in Tanzania are from Form 1 and four from Form 2 were in this initial test group, and they were amongst the most vulnerable in the school. On our next visit we are hoping to distribute kits to the fourteen girls in Form 3 and twelve girls in Form 4 (26 pupils). In Form 1 there are 31 girls who we will distribute kits to in the future, however we are in desperate need of some fundraising to pay for the pads to be made and for the fabric.

Kits of Cloth Pads in Tanzania

Due to this being a government school, the pupils are mostly living in poverty and cloth pads in Tanzania are virtually unheard of. Many of the families aren’t supportive of the children going to school, the headteacher struggles with families coming to ask if their children can leave school early to start generating income for the family. Parents of girls are most likely to not want their child to be educated but instead to work. The government says children must stay in school until they finish Form 4. At the end of form 4 they take an exam and if they fail they are allowed to leave or repeat the year. Sometimes with the offer of a child having vocational training, such as sewing, the families will allow them to stay in this kind of education a little longer because it has the chance of better income generation.

Only school for three villages in the area and the pupils have to travel a long way to school, they wake up at 4am to be on the road to walk to school. After school they often have to go and do farm work (during the rainy season) or other work. This school doesn’t have boarding facilities but some families manage to board the pupils in the local village. There is an issue with local men take advantage of school children (usually girls), rape and coersion. Often the girls get pregnant from being assaulted and they can no longer go to school. The government don’t support these pupils any more since the change in presidency so if a girl becomes pregnant, her education is finished. Children often have to take part in sexual acts and are given payment in school uniform, disposable menstrual pads, food or money.

These children need education about body autonomy, menstrual cycles, family planning and safe sex. With the provision of the menstrual cloth pads in Tanzania, we’re hoping to improve their attendance and their chances of passing the Form 4 exams to stay in school. Our next blog will cover the answers from the 16 girls who have tried our washable cloth menstrual pads. You can read their answers and what we’ve learnt from the cloth pad testing questionnaires in our blog here.

*see our blog on gendered language (coming soon) for the use of group pronouns. The laws in Tanzania and language barriers make it impossible to ask these young adults their pronouns and they are referred to as “waisichana”, girls, by the teachers so we have decided to use female terms in blogs about specific groups of people. This helps our SEO, or Google rankings, for people looking to help “pads for girls in Tanzania” but please know we are happy to help anyone in need of pads to attend school, for menstruation or continence. Nikki

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Dying Fabric for Cloth Menstrual Pads

Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads

Mya and I have done a few little planning sessions in the past couple of days here in Tabora and went through the supplies I brought. She’d done some research for us into batiki dyes so we can create custom colourway batches that will help hide blood stains on the pads. The local shop sells powdered dyes and chemicals, and we’re trying to look for the best We want to take reds, browns and greens, purples and black/grey and try tie dye, batiki (batik dying) and “barafu” where we can use ice to make beautiful watercolour style patterns on cheap plain white cotton fabric.

Tie Dying Fabric for Cloth Menstrual Pads

We found some inexpensive pink cotton in the city centre and decided to buy a few metres.
pink cotton fabric for making cloth menstrual pads in Tanzania

Then we used the tie dye techniques I’d printed out in the UK to fold and tie it. Using a reverse-dye technique with bleach seemed like a great idea until we tried to buy bleach in the market! In the end we found a couple of bottles and tried it out. The first batch we watered down the bleach and the result was pretty (on the right), then the second piece was done with pure thin bleach and was more eye-catching even just half an hour later (left).

Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads
Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads

Next time we’ll try the bleach watered down a little to save it but we were really happy with the results. Next to try is the actual fabric dye, which we hope will work out even more cost-effective with undyed cotton. Perfect for tote bags and maybe even the pads.

Ice Dye Technique

A really great way to dye fabric is by laying ice over it and putting the dye on top. As the ice melts, the dye disperses across the fabric in different concentrations, giving beautiful results especially with two or more colours.

I wasn’t sure that we could get ice here in Tabora but Mya knows a few people with freezers and we could ask nicely at the hotels (there isn’t an awful lot of snow unless we want to hike up Kilimanjaro and I think that’s a bit of a stretch to dye some fabric!) I brought some plain white Minky style fabric too which we’ll test for wicking and absorbency to make sure it’s a good topper fabric for the pads and hopefully it will accept the dyes too. We have even discussed trying vegetable dyes which would be the most sustainable, least harmful alternative to chemicals and a great plastic-free, zero waste method. So in our small amount of internet time, drinking sodas at The Orion Hotel, I’ll be searching the web for vegetable dye techniques. If you have a little bit of experience with small batch fabric dying and would like a trip to help some of the teens in Tanzania make the most of their education and help the community here to generate an income and learn skills, and you’d love a few weeks in the sunshine then please get in touch – we’d love to host you!

To donate towards some fabrics to make washable cloth menstrual pads in Tanzania, please visit www.paypal.me/projectkidogo and give what you can. You can write “for buying fabric” and every penny you donate will be spent on cotton and towels to create pads, which we’ll distribute free of charge to schools and sell to generate income for some of Tabora’s most vulnerable residents. We don’t have any admin costs at the time of writing, as these are currently covered by our trustees.

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Preparing A Sewing Workshop in Tanzania

Fundi doing the Project Kidogo sewing machine setup, Mya watching Tanzania Tabora

Preparing a sewing workshop in Tanzania was one of our first goals on reaching Tabora on Wednesday. We landed after a short hop from Dar Es Salaam on a little Air Tanzania plane with ten bits of luggage (having lost my own suitcase). Hakun, myself and two small children meeting up with Mya and Deus. The kids were excited to meet our their new friends, Deus’s children, that afternoon at the lodge where we’re staying and Hakun and I were keen to unpack.

Our Luggage

Right now we have four suitcases piled in the corner of our lodge with a thousand pairs of knickers for the school kits, armfuls of fabric, fleece, cotton, ripstop nylon and towels and ten maroon overlocker thread cones. We brought with us one pair of pinking shears and a rotary cutter, 100 little binder clips for securing fabric, thousands of KAM snaps and pliars as well as seam rippers for making the most of preloved clothes and towels.

luggage for Tanzania
luggage for Tanzania in our Picasso

Hakun’s suitcase arrived in tact with his 200 bamboo toothbrushes, “zawadi” (gifts) he bought for local children and some of the sunblock we bought for the family and his basic clothes and toiletaries. Our children’s suitcase made it too, with lots of small hats and practical shoes. Mine did not make the journey. So I’m here with just the clothes I was wearing on the internal flight and the laundry from our three nights in Dar Es Salaam, and my hand luggage. We’ve been to the Air Tanzania offices to try to track this suitcase down and, although they were pretty helpful, it looks like we didn’t check mine in despite arriving with it. We’re trying to get in touch with the airport security, but I’m sure it’s mostly replaceable (apart from the sunblock). If living here before has taught me one thing, it’s the art of adapting to living with less and in preparing a sewing workship in Tanzania means being flexible. We managed to get sim cards at the airport and Hakun’s is working ok, mine took a little pursuading and a new cable. So here we have a few photos!

Preparing a Sewing Worskhip in Tanzania

Although we’re a secular/non-religeous NGO we’ve been very welcomed by the Anglican Church and we’re grateful for the accommodation here. Yesterday afternoon we bought two sewing machines – a heavy manual Butterfly which are very popular and well-loved here in Tanzania, and a new electric overlocker imported to Tabora from India. We’ve set the machines up in my bedroom for the time being so Mya and I can practice. With the maroon overlocker thread cones and any polyester thread we can get here, we’re going to set up initially making some fabric bags.

In June 2019 the Tanzanian government put an immediate ban on plastic bags throughout the country! Vendors, “duka” (shops) and every business and person in the country had to hand over all plastic bags immediately and invest in reusable bags. This has had a great impact already on the amount of plastic waste in Tanzania although sadly, the fabric reusable alternatives are nylon fabric slightly more durable than the fabric of disposable nappies, and I can’t imagine will last all that well. We visited a fish market in Dar Es Salaam as part of a tour of the city and I could see sellers these flimsy plastic-fabric bags and large manilla envelopes being used for wet things and I hope the people here start to develop some waterproof plant-based alternatives like the corn “plastic” bags we use to line food bins in the UK. There’s a huge opportunity for investment there that would do so much for the environment and the Tanzanian people. Our plan is to use some inexpensive cotton vitenge fabric to start producing some cotton totes which will help Mya to hone her sewing skills and start to generate a little income for Project Kidogo.

Using the sewing machine and overlocker to make fabric totes will be really helpful for our future sewing interns and apprentices. With the help of volunteers we’ll provide them with the marketable skills to be able to generate an income and contribute to the local economy. We’re going to create a sewing workshop with lots of natural light, electricity and good security where the workers can come and feel safe and comfortable. As each sewer’s ability improves they can start to make pads which they can sell locally using subsidised fabric, and we can purchase pads from them for the menstrual kits we will distribute to the teens in schools in the district. We hope to view workshops in the next few weeks so that we can prepare the space ready to move in before I leave. If you might be able to help with a regular monthly donation for the workshop or to help with a few months’ rent then please email info@projectkidogo.org.uk and we’ll be very grateful. One-off donations towards fabrics, as well as soap and bowls for the kits are also desperately needed and you can send us money on PayPal here

If you want to be involved in any way with the charity, whether it’s by holding a cloth menstrual pad sewing workshop, other fundraising events such as bake sales or even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, please let us know here or on our Facebook page or DM us on Instagram

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Questionnaire We Give To Teens

schoolgirl writing questionnaire, Project Kidogo reusable menstrual pad charity

Here is the questionnaire we give to teens in Tanzania such ash schoolgirls, young women living in poverty, recent school leavers. It is to give us some information about their situation and to ask them open questions about their pad useage and to give them the opportunity to provide feedback.

We tell them it’s important not to put their name although we ask for school/district to see how things change in different areas.

1. Age
2. Guardian at home (eg Mum, Grandparent)
3. Location
4. School
5. Did your parents/someone else teach you? Or did you learn from friends?
6. Do you use kanga (folded fabric) or disposable pads or something else for your periods?
7. If you have used disposables, did you buy them or someone else?
8. Do you know how disposables they cost? Are they expensive?
9. If you’ve used disposables do you bury them after or something else?
10. Have you heard about washable pads?
11. Would you use washable pads?
12. What do you think could be any problems for you with washable pads?

Demonstration and gift of kit (if they would like it)
13. Do you think these washable pads would help you attend school more often?
14. Do you have any suggestions for our charity to help people in your situation?

Thank you so much for your feedback and we hope you enjoy your kit.