Girls in developing countries will miss out on up to one week of school every month because they’ve got their period. This usually results in them falling behind in class, and eventually dropping out. In many developing countries, menstruation equals inequality.

A majority of women in Sierra Leone don’t have a hygienic way of managing their period. Women may use five pairs of underwear, kitchen sponges, old cloth and other makeshift materials to manage their menstruation. Due to the unhygienic nature of these materials, women experience rashes, sores and bruising.

1200 women and girls using pads, 10 trained champions across 5 communities

LaunchPad delivers affordable, biodegradable sanitary pads to women and girls in Sierra Leone, using a network of female entrepreneurs and school systems.

To reach women and girls across Sierra Leone, we using a two-pronged delivery method. Firstly, we train local women to start their own business selling sanitary pads. They become ‘LaunchPad Champions’. Secondly, we’re partnering with high schools and offering menstrual health and hygiene, as well as access to free sanitary pads for the girls in school.
Studies have shown that when girls have access to sanitary products, their rates of absenteeism reduce dramatically.

LaunchPad’s sanitary pad products have been carefully designed and selected based on the needs of our customers, cultural taboos and the environment. LaunchPad sells affordable eco-friendly sanitary that are sourced from Uganda through our partner

Makapads. The pads are made from papyrus leaves and are fully biodegradable. We often receive requests for more information about LaunchPad, and we’re also asked questions around why we chose to use biodegradable pads over reuseable pads, tampons and diva cups.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

We have conducted surveys with 500 women across 10 communities and LaunchPad was created in response to what the women told as they wanted. Here are some of the questions we’re asked regularly.

WHY DON’T YOU USE REUSABLE FABRIC PADS INSTEAD?

After surveying 500 women and girls, we discovered that many of them find it embarrassing to have to wash their soiled cloth in public washing areas.

Because Sierra Leone is a developing country, they don’t have the same hygenic means of washing as we do. The washing is often done in open water sources, and naturally, there is a lot of bacteria in this water. Once washed, the soiled cloth can’t be hung out in the sun to dry (due to the taboo around menstrual blood), therefore the cloth is dried indoors in very humid conditions. As a result, the material often doesn’t dry fully, and women are forced to wear damp cloth which is a breeding ground for diseases.

WHAT ABOUT DIVA CUPS/ MOON CUPS/ TAMPONS?

More than 90% of the women in Sierra Leone have undergone Female Genital Cutting (FGC). This means that they find it incredibly painful to insert anything into their bodies.

Additionally, virginity is valued very highly in Sierra Leone. Teenage girls would be unable to use tampons or cups for fear of ruining their future chance of marriage.

It is generally considered taboo to use any of these products in developing countries, therefore the reliable sanitary pad is a much more socially acceptable option!

WHY DON’T YOU GIVE ALL THE PADS AWAY FOR FREE?

Women in Sierra Leone don’t find hand-outs empowering. We’ve had women tell us directly “We don’t want free things, we want business. We’re business women, work with us.” Research has also shown that when people pay for a product, they are much more likely to use it – they’ve made a personal investment in it so they’ll put it to good use.

The pads we sell are still subsidised, however by taking in a small cut off each of the pad, it does reduce some of the funding pressure on our organisation, thus making the project more sustainable in the long run.