Every day, young girls around the world face their menses with a lack of access to critical supplies and information. But the way we approach this global issue is showing signs of change, thanks to a whirlwind of global innovation focused on making a natural process easier for half of humanity.
To celebrate the work of these clever inventors, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite innovations in menstrual products.
Flo: A More Discreet Way to Wash and Dry Sanitary Pads
A primary challenge in providing menstruation supplies to young girls — as we learned through our work with Women’s Health for Wealth in Ghana, and other members of our Consortium — is the issue of embarrassment, including over washing and drying reusable items in public places, such as schoolyards. Flo has come up with one solution as clever as its name: a kit for washing, drying, and storing sanitary pads. The kit includes a detachable, cleverly designed device for spinning the pad until it’s nearly dry. The spinner then turns into a drying rack, to complete the drying of the damp pad outdoors, in public but with privacy. Flo also provides a nicely designed pouch for discreetly carrying pads to and from school.
Flex: A Startup for Menstrual Discs
This disposable alternative to tampons is the brainchild of CEO Lauren Schulte, who had grown tired of suffering through painful periods and what she believed were tampon-induced infections. The product, a stylish and non-invasive disc similar to a diaphragm, can be worn for up to 12 hours and heats up to enable a customized, pain-free individual fit. At the moment, Flex is available only through subscription from within the United States, although the company is actively seeking to expand distribution. Through her clever innovation, Schulte converted her pain into products girls need.
Man Lost His Wife & Shunned in Pursuit of Life-Changing Innovation
Horrified by the “nasty cloths” his wife had to endure during her period, Arunachalam Muruganantham designed a more affordable and hygienic answer to the sanitary pad, made entirely out of cotton. His experiments included everything from testing the pads out on college students to wearing a “uterus” crafted out of a football bladder and filled with goat’s blood, all for the sake of advocacy. Muruganantham is now working to expand the business to 106 countries and has also brought his work to schools, teaching girls to make their own pads and empower themselves. His single-minded dedication to the task has been documented in an entertaining film, entitled, “Menstrual Man.”
A Natural — and Innovative — Solution to Making Menstrual Supplies Sustainable
Empowering Women Period (EWP), a Seattle-based organization run by Shana Greene and Village Volunteers, distributes pads to Kenya, India and other countries, and has developed a method for producing biodegradable sanitary pads. The affordable, sustainable pads incorporate an invasive, prolific aquatic plant as their absorbent: the water hyacinth. Every manufacturing facility within the organization is also owned and operated by women in need, who receive a steady income and health insurance for producing the pads.
Thinx: The Underwear That Redefines Periods, and Deconstructs Stigma
Determined to destroy the period taboo, Thinx emerged in 2014 with a revolutionary idea for underwear that could be worn, by itself, during one’s period. The secret to this counter-intuitive concept? Four pieces of technology that make them anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, absorbent and resistant to leaks. The brand has also designed stylish, comfortable and gender-neutral versions of its products.
For more on why we need to continue this conversation and increase affordability and accessibility in period supplies worldwide, download and share our #PeriodProblems infographic, and help us continue the conversation on a topic of importance to girls and women worldwide.