KENYA: Cheap banana stem sanitary towels invented for women

Research by two Bachelor of Education students from Kabarak University in Nakuru, shows that the banana trunk can be used to make sanitary pads.


Paul Ntikoisa and Ivy Etemesi’s Banana Fibre Sanitary Wear innovation, aim to provide affordable sanitary towels to needy girls and women.


The students opted to conduct a research on the use of the banana trunk in making sanitary towels in consultation with health experts, after realizing challenges facing girls and women in Marigat, Mogotio and Rafiki’s in Baringo County.


Their noble cause comes from the difficult time young girls experience during their menstrual periods.


Teenage girls from poor families and marginalized areas for a very long time have been forced to stay home during their menses, which is very unfortunate for girl child as she misses out on her studies while her colleagues continue with the school programme.


This has forced girls to resort to using unhygienic materials such as old clothing, papers, soil, ashes and even animal skin to manage their monthly flow which no doubt poses a health risk to the  desperate girl child.


The students, who are passionate about bringing social change, say that despite the female gender being a blessing to family and the society as a whole, the menstrual cycle tends to isolate them.


“While conducting our research, school going girls claimed they are forced to stay at home during their menses due to shame whenever they soil their uniforms. Women said they abstain from going to church due to stigma,” says Ntikoisa.


If approved, this invention could salvage the plight of poor girls and women in villages. The two say towels are made using banana fibres that are locally available, absorbent, ecological friendly and are not harmful to the skin.


“There are imported sanitary towels in the market but most women cannot afford them. Banana sanitary towels will be cost effective because the cost of production is lower since the raw materials are locally available,” says Etemesi.


Etemesi says a single pad will retail at only Sh6. “Banana pads are durable and effective, and cost less compared to other pads,” she adds.


The process of making the towels involves harvesting fresh cellulose part of the banana stem, cleaned with water to remove particles and then crushed on a clean wooden surface using a wooden stick to turn it into fibre which is then dried in the sun for about six hours to increase its durability before being disinfected.


After disinfection, the fibres are then laid out on a wooden surface manually in towel shaped core-forming units and arranged in strips so as to remove irregular strips to prevent pricking when one wears the towel.


Each strip is later wrapped with two absorbent soft liners to ensure the pad’s surface is soft before it is placed on a mackintosh paper and woven using thread and needle.


Finally, cello tape is placed on the hanging wings for easier opening and sticking.  “Stitching of the mackintosh paper is done, leaving the wings where cello tape is used to firm the pad to avoid movement of the pad during flow,” says Etemesi.


Test runs on the finished product have been carried on Female students at the institution who say it is highly effective. “Students who used the product say it can hold blood flow for at least seven hours before the need for change,” says Etemesi.


Ntikoisa observes that unlike contraceptives that are free and easily available, pads, tampons and other menstruation equipment are not as affordable and accessible.


“Lack of affordable sanitary towels mostly by teenagers from poor families forces them to indulge in prostitution among other immoralities to raise money to buy them,” he says.


Ntikoisa urges the government to create awareness in regions where menstruation is regarded as a taboo to boost the productivity of women and their hygienic conditions.


“There should be more education to eliminate the stigma of menstruation,” he observes. The duo call on well-wishers to support them financially to enable them purchases mackintosh papers and liners to increase productivity.


“Resources are the only challenge in making affordable and effective banana sanitary towels that will improve livelihoods of our female folk,” they say. The innovation was ranked position one under the innovation category during the annual Kabarak University International Conference.


African girl child education faces a myriad of challenges with menses topping the list, which denies the equal opportunities their opposite gender enjoys. These has force many governments to source funds and partner with non-governmental organizations to be able to provide free and cheap sanitary pads for school going girls and women.


Source: News from Africa

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