My name is Trinitas Mhango Kunashe, Founder of Tina Pads, a sanitary social enterprise.
I work with the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi where I coordinate a Global Early Adolescent Study project. For the past year, girls could miss my research sessions much more frequently than boys. Following up I was told they were in their menstruation cycles and because they cannot afford the expensive disposable pads sold in stores, they use a makeshift folded rag made from chitenje cloth that leaks within a few hours. These girls are forced to stay home because when they come to school, the chitenje leak and they get laughed at. This is such a painful and embarrassing situation that approximately 1 million Malawian girls miss over 6 weeks of school per year simply because they do not have access to sanitary pads during menstruation.
This experience rekindles my childhood shame and pain because I once got laughed at when my chitenje nyanda rag fell out simply because I also lacked comfortable, proper sanitary products. Nineteen years later, it's still happening and it pushed me to ask, if there's a period problem in Malawi, why isn't anything being done to fix it? Thus, Tina Pads was born.
Tina Pads exists to support adolescent girls in Malawi to stay in school by delivering reproductive health education and reusable sanitary pads.
Reusable pads are offered through community-based distribution models, where we work with a network of community agents to sell pads door to door and use the community schools as points of sale. The pads last at least two years, providing a method to keep girls in school at a cost that is affordable to low income families.
By making affordable sanitary pads, delivering health education, and informing policy, Tina Pads creates new opportunities for women and girls to thrive as focused students, productive workers, and informed mothers