Most people avoid talking about the challenges women face in pursuing and maintaining safe menstrual hygiene because they believe it to be a taboo subject. Freweini Mebrahtu, the founder of Mariam Seba Products Factory, introduced the concept of reusable sanitary napkins to the Ethiopian community. In recognition of her work to reduce the cost and increase the availability of menstrual hygiene products, CNN named her 2019’s Hero of the Year.
Disposable sanitary pads are the most widely available product for menstrual hygiene in Ethiopia. When used correctly, these disposable pads can fulfill a woman’s need for cleanliness during menstruation.
Studies show that roughly 75 percent of menstruating-age Ethiopian women do not have access to sanitary products. This means that 22 million Ethiopian women out of 35 million do not have access to sanitary pads or cannot afford them.
There is a significant gap in safe menstrual hygiene for women in Ethiopia due to a number of factors, including a lack of access to sanitary pads, their high cost, a lack of education about menstruation and its use, and the prevalence of women with disabilities and reproductive health complications.
Mickal Mamo saw the need for affordable and easily accessible menstrual hygiene products and set out to solve it. The result was Adey Pads.
Adey’s pads are reusable and washable, made with every woman in Ethiopia in mind.
The company creates pads that are safe, sustainable, and can be used up to 100 times. Because different women have different needs when it comes to feminine hygiene products, they created a wide range of sizes and purposes for these pads.
“We currently have incontinence pads that can be used by women who have difficulty controlling secretions due to many different health reasons, like fistula,” Mickal said. She says the company also produces maternity pads for mothers who just gave birth as well as extra-large pads for women who face heavy flows naturally or due to different health issues.
Women who are bedridden and unable to change into disposable pads as needed can benefit from Adey Pads, which are soft and reusable the same as diapers but can withstand a heavy flow.
Adey Pads is working to ensure that all women in Ethiopia have access to affordable and high-quality sanitary options, with the ultimate goal of ending period poverty and the widespread lack of access to menstrual products, feminine hygiene, waste management, and sanitary education in the country.
When addressing the issue of period poverty, Mickal says they had to think about many things beyond just providing clean restrooms and sanitary products for those who needed them.
“One of the many discouraging and sad things I learned throughout this journey is how women who are bound to wheelchairs avoid drinking water to avoid having to go to the bathroom because there aren’t many accessible and clean toilets for them,” she said, pondering the difficulties women faced during menstruation.
It’s even more dire in Ethiopia’s rural areas.
When sanitary products are unavailable, women often resort to using leaves, cow dung, or other makeshift methods to manage their periods.
This is one of the main reasons why cervical cancer is one of the most common non-communicable diseases affecting many women in Ethiopia, along with the lack of available places where women can clean up and the lack of clean water, Mickal says.
Adey Pads is dedicated to giving as many women as possible a healthier and more hygienic sanitary option.
It’s been trying to get these reusable pads into the hands of students and young girls all over Ethiopia.
Don’t Tax My Period is a collaborative effort between multiple government and non-government organizations with the goal of eliminating taxes on menstrual hygiene and sanitation products in Ethiopia.
Birke kits, a small bag containing sanitary products like reusable sanitary napkins, have been prepared by Adey Pads in partnership with I Care and Jegnit. They have been able to distribute the kits to 50,000 girls across Ethiopia so far.
Mickal believes period poverty is a serious issue that calls for concerted action to end it and restore dignity to women everywhere during their menstrual cycles.
She argues that this is an issue that affects both sexes and that there needs to be more education and awareness on the topic. It is only through widespread education and awareness about period health and hygiene that we can end the bullying and stigma women face when they menstruate, Mickal contends.