Pad (Change) Makers

Sawana Rai

Chatrang is a sparsely populated beautiful village and our overnight accommodation during this three-days training  on ‘Menstrual Hygiene and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’ is at Early Childhood Development (ECD) classroom of Kalika Basic School nestled perfectly on this hill-top with amazing panoramic view. Today is the second day of our training and the most significant one, for today is the day of ‘Pad Making’! Most of the twenty participants (women group representatives and women of the nearby communities) had yesterday expressed pad making as what they are eagerly looking forward to learn from this training.

The day begins as per the program schedule. Our training hall is one of the classrooms of the school. One can feel the excitement as we are nearing the main session of pad making. I start the session facilitation with a discussion on menstrual products used by them. Most of the women use or used pieces of old clothes as menstrual product and only a few young women use sanitary pads available in the market. As I introduce various menstrual products (like sanitary pad, reusable sanitary pad, menstrual cup and tampon) among these women, some faces are hesitant, some are curious and some are a mix of both. The most easily accessible and practical menstrual product for these women and their communities is reusable sanitary pad, this they all agreed to as I explain the utilities of all the menstrual products.

Now we move on to pad making. The fabric clothes are ready, so are the sewing materials and scissors. We begin the pad making with draft making, where we all trace a sample reusable pad onto a chart paper leaving about an inch on all sides. Then the drafts are traced on 2 equal pieces of fabric clothes which then are cut out and stitched together. Pockets are sewed on the either side of the pads to hold the fabric napkins in place, which are also made separately by each participant. The participants in the hall range from women who have not had much experience with scissors or tracing, to women with sewing interest and experience. Some need assistance to run scissors along the marked lines while some wait patiently with their works done for the others to complete the step. A joke is cracked here and there, now and then – most in their native language –  to which I smile with zero understanding.

Some sat on the floor for comfortability in sewing, some moved closer to the windows for more light to help them sew easily. A participant just noticed she had been stitching her trousers along with her pad! A laughter bursts in the training hall. Mistakes are made, lessons are learnt. I can hear ‘Miss, mero bhayo?’ (Is mine alright, miss?) every now and then from the women with their hands raised showing their completed pad. With the announcement of awarding the top 3 well-made pads, there is a sense of competition among the participants. But these are kind women with the sense of community: one helping another to thread their needle or to keep the clothes in place while stitching or to even stitch some parts as they take a break.

By 4pm, 19 among the 20 participants completed their pads. With the agreement of completing the unfinished pad at home, we end the day and our women leave for their homes where chores await them. These women are tired from hours of sewing today but yet are grateful for the day. On their way out, they tick on the very happy emoji on ‘How was your day today?’ chart placed by the facilitators.

Tomorrow we shall meet in this very hall for the last day of our training after which these women, through their women group, will pass on the learnings to the rest of the communities by conducting pad making trainings. Tomorrow we will hand over the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Kit, consisting of all the required materials for pad making, to the women group representatives, which they will use for the pad making trainings they will conduct in the months to come. Tomorrow will end with hope – hope for these change makers.

A pad prepared by the end of the session
Facilitator helping participants during pad making
Prize to one of the top 3 well-made pad
Participant ticking happy emoji on the ‘How was your day today’ chart
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