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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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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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Vaccinations for the Kammingas

vaccinations before travelling to Tanzania for charity work

Nikki here with a quick update. It’s just over three weeks till I’m off to Tanzania again along with husband Hakun and their two little ones. The past week has meant vaccinations for all of us so we’re recovering from that with sore arms and the knowledge that we’re a little more protected. Our eldest even asked if she could go back for another injection because she wanted another sticker!

The packing list is pretty well under-way. It’s similar to the list Andi and I made for our March trip but with more kids’ things. Hakun has a beautiful multi-tool and Kindle coming for Father’s Day and his birthday along with some pants our youngest chose for him, but our favourite buy was actually in the Poundshop in Bristol’s The Galleries. Didn’t even realise they sold clothes but we picked up a bunch of things there to help protect our skin from the mozzies in Tabora. My mosquito prevention goes like this in the evenings: quick wash with a flannel before it gets dusky, good spray of DEET (we buy 100% then water it down to 50% with water, giving it a good shake before each use) then an outfit of long cotton/viscose trousers tucked into long fleece socks, and a long sleeved cotton top tucked into the trousers. Some more DEET on the ankles and wrists and a soaked hairband too. We then light some anti-mosquito insence in the bedroom and tuck the nets down. Brush teeth and a little reading whilst the room fumigates then it’s clear in the room. I’ll put the kids in bed with some books and a head torch each so Hakun and I can work uninterrupted in the evenings.

Buying clothes to take seems strange at first but we’ll be leaving most of our things there when we return to the UK – giving away clothes and shoes, storing a few things with our friend Deus, and the trip back will be pretty minimal packing-wise. The trip over will involve a fair amount of stuff as Smalls For All are sending us three huge boxes of knickers for the packs.

Our suitcases will be filled with citronella bands, DEET and ammonia just in case we do get bitten. We’re about as prepared as we can be and so excited to be going out again. The kids are looking forward to seeing new animals and learning a little Swahili. More to follow soon!
Nikki Kamminga
Founder and Trustee