Blog 2 : It's a Challenge - Period.
Sharyn - Sponsor: Hannahpad
In an exciting variation from my usual Home Brand disposable pads, last November I had the pleasure of trying and testing the Hannahpad – a reusable, certified organic cloth pad. As a part of KindNecessities’ “It’s a Challenge – Period.” initiative, I documented my experience down below, whilst also raising money to donate to refugee women who don’t have the same level of access to menstrual products that we take for granted.
The first day with Hannahpads went great. They were very easy to use, didn’t leak, and were compact in my bag. The only thing I learned the hard way was that unlike disposable pads, you need to bring a spare plastic bag for when you store your used ones (can’t stress this tip enough – keep spares in your bag just in case if you want to be extra sure and not left in a sticky situation). The second day was a test. Because I didn’t wash all the pads used on my first day, I ended up running out halfway through. This is probably the most important lesson I learned when using disposable pads: wash all your pads straight away and ensure you have more than enough to last you. For me this equated to about 4-5 per day. Luckily, I made it home without leaking, but after I took a shower I had no more clean pads to use. Although the objective of this project was trialing reusable alternatives to traditional menstrual products, the underlying purpose was to see what it would be like to abandon our usual disposable ones, and so I didn’t want to resort to using an ordinary pad. I ended up taking an old singlet and a small plastic freezer bag and using that instead. At first, it was okay. The combination was a little heavier than the Hannahpad, but it felt absorbent enough. However, I found that after about an hour of this, that I had leaked so much it had gone down my leg.
I ended up throwing out using two singlets and a t-shirt due to this, but I found out something much more important. Firstly, that cloth pads aren’t simply pieces of fabric cut in the shape of a pad – they’ve been carefully designed to retain blood and are amazing in doing so, especially in considering they don’t have plastic as a sort of ‘liquid blocker’ as disposable pads do. Secondly, that even clean and seemingly ‘absorbent’ clothing is no adequate substitute for proper menstrual products. For me, this was okay because I was in a scenario where 1) I was at home and free to leak; 2) I was also wearing sports track pants which did a good job at containing my leakage; 3) the clothes I used as pads were clean and wouldn’t harm me; and 4) I knew that I had several Hannahpads drying outside, ready to use the next day. The most I faced was mild discomfort and fear of sitting down for too long on one surface.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone.
Refugee women who don’t have access to menstrual products aren’t using washed singlets, but rags, garbage bags, moss and even ripped pieces from old mattresses. They aren’t doing so out of a place of curiosity or even charity, but necessity. This is made even worse by the intense shame and ostracisation that comes with a period in these settings, where women are branded as unclean. This initiative came from us wondering “what would it really be like to function without our usual forms of sanitary products, like refugee women do?” and due to obvious health and logistical issues, we decided to use environmentally friendly alternatives. Whilst we’re all stoked that we had the ability to do this, again, not everyone does. That’s what we aim to combat at KindNecessities, and this experience really reinforced the importance of that for me.
At the end of the day, I would highly encourage making the switch to reusable pads. All the issues I faced were due to my own lack of planning and foresight, and I believe it’s so important to make small steps towards a cleaner environment. The other thing I will make mention to is the washing process. Whilst on their website Hannahpad do provide specific washing items, I found that having a small soaking tub in your bathroom and then washing the pads properly at the end of the day worked fine. Just make sure (if you don’t use a dryer like me) you leave enough time for them to sun-dry.
Regardless of whether it’s making a small lifestyle change, signing a petition, volunteering, donating, taking part in a strike, or any other step of social activism, I truly believe we need to start looking at issues whose impact reaches beyond what we see or feel at this current moment. Whilst we can’t necessarily see the experiences of refugee women, whilst we can’t see the extent of environmental degradation, we can’t continue to ignore their reality. I strongly encourage you to do your best to make small changes, to talk to the people around you and to get thinking about the ways you can maximise your difference.
By Sharyn Budiarto