The closure of stores and public transport, rising costs, and increasing economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 measures are all putting menstrual hygiene supplies out of reach for those in poverty in Somalia. The vulnerable and marginalized communities in Somalia, including refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs) living in poverty and in cramped and poor-condition camps, have limited access to basic services. COVID-19 directly impacted the lives of a population already living under the strain of widespread poverty and decades of armed conflict and insecurity. In addition to the COVID-19 impacts, the burden of devastating humanitarian consequences as a result of the prolonged and severe drought conditions in Somalia further accentuated the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and left young women from marginalized communities without access to period products like sanitary pads.
Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible, and some girls resort to managing their periods with pieces of rags or paper, which are often unhygienic and uncomfortable, causing chafing, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and other reproductive health problems.
With the support of the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy through ActionAid International on behalf of Feminist Humanitarian Network (FHN), Hawa Feminist Coalition conducted training for 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.
Training targeted 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups in Garowe, Somalia, and divided the number among the following groups:
- 25 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Garowe
- 15 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the refugees, particularly Yemeni refugees in Garowe,
- 10 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from people with disabilities and host communities in Garowe
The training duration was six days held between March 12 and 20, 2023. The topics and sessions covered during the six-day training are detailed below:
Day 1 – Introduction to the Menstrual Cycle and Hygiene Management: The first day of the training was an introductory day that introduced the 50 trainees to the menstrual cycle, normal and abnormal periods, and the risks associated with poor menstrual hygiene management. Trainees also learned how to identify the different types of menstrual products available on the market.
Day 2 – Understanding Reusable Sanitary Pads: On the second day of the training, the trainees were taught about the different types of reusable sanitary pads available and their different materials. The many ways to create these reusable menstrual products include the method and the materials that can be used, such as leftover quilting cotton, linen, hemp, flannel, fleece, and thicker, more stable knits. The other materials, like using water-proof or water-resistant materials for the bottom of the outer layer of the pad, are perfect for this.
Day 3 – Maintenance and keeping hygienic standards of the pads and awareness on GBV: On the third day of the training, trainees were taught about how to maintain and clean the reusable sanitary pads, including cleaning techniques such as rinsing in cold water, storing in a wetbag or bucket, soaking heavily stained pads in water with salt or stain remover, washing on a decent length wash cycle at no more than 30 °C, and also air drying. The trainer explained the importance of quality control and how to maintain specific standards when producing reusable sanitary pads.
Day 4 and 5 – Trainer’s-led Practical Demonstrations: On the fourth and fifth days of the training, more trainer-led demonstrations were taught, such as practical lessons on how to use needles and threads for the production of reusable sanitary pads. Trainees were taught practically how to thread the needle, and how to control the sewing. The trainer demonstrated how to meet specific guidelines and produce high-quality, reusable sanitary pads. Trainees also watched a video showing the step-by-step process of how to make the reusable sanitary pads, including the materials, sizes, linings, and sewing.
Day 6 – Trainees’-led Practical Sessions: On the last day of the training, trainees were put on a practical exercise where they were tasked with making the pad by themselves, and each trainee was given materials consisting of a printed guidebook, a pen, A4 papers, a ruler, thin cloth, several buttons, cotton fabric (towel), a needle, a scissor, pins, and one thread to use for making the pad by hand. Patterns for various sizes of pads are also provided to produce different sizes. Each trainee was required to produce one pad successfully in 5 hours with the coaching of the trainer.
The six-day training provided for 50 trainees, of which five days were teaching and tutoring and the last day was practical exercise, where trainees were required to practice what they had learned from the training and make their own sanitary pads using the knowledge they acquired during the training, was delivered successfully.
All the trainees gained the necessary knowledge to make pads, fully understood the process and steps taken and the kind of materials used in making the pads. Trainees demonstrated their level of understanding on the last day of the training, when each of them made a pad using the materials provided. The finishing of each trainee was checked carefully to ensure she followed the process taught in the training and the product was usable and perfect. The result shows 41 out of 50 trainees made the pad perfectly, while the remaining 9 made small errors. This shows that 82% of the trainees proved their excellence in making their own menstrual pads using commonly found materials for themselves and their families.
The training ended with success, achieved its objective, and trained 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.
These vulnerable women and adolescent girls gained invaluable skills, and every one of them successfully produced a pad with their hand, which is proof that they can have access to sustainable sanitary protection and good menstrual hygiene at their fingertips from now on. These vulnerable women and adolescent girls are also capable of helping their communities since they know how to sew and probably have a bunch of fabric scraps hanging around. Each of the training participants received a book translated into Somali, which is a do-it-yourself book or step-by-step guide in the local language, so other women and adolescent girls can learn from it how to design and produce their own reusable menstrual pads using commonly found materials, as well as how to maintain these pads hygienically to maintain their period in a healthy and dignified manner.
This is expected to positively promote accessibility to menstrual hygiene products for vulnerable women and adolescent girls among internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Somalia, who have been affected by the COVID-19 prevention measures.
For more information, click here to download the training report or you can contact the project team through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through our whatsApp: https://wa.me/message/MQOZHDMXX2OOA1.