In 2012/13, Linda from The Umbrella Foundation (Australia) and Beni (Beni Handicrafts) launched a project of delivering sewing machines and materials to outlaying villages. Backed by Mountain People and Steps. The idea was to train women’s groups to produce and distribute washable sanitary pads, with intent to create income for the woman’s groups. Plus, so they could repair and produce clothing for the village. This training in production was backed with general workshops covering health and hygiene.
Unfortunately the earthquake of 2014 put a stop to this.
Beni Handicrafts along with Mountain People, realized the above model was not sustainable, in relation to costs. So they decided to produce a series of sanitary pads in Kathmandu, to be later named: Freedom Kit Bags.
Freedom Kit Bag – wear with pride!
Steps aim is to raise awareness about reproduction and sexual health and reduce the shame around menstruation. In Beni’s Words, ‘Girls and women should be PROUD when they have their period!’
Each Freedom Kit Bag contains:
1. One fashionable and handy Silk-sari carry bag.
2. Two soft cotton Pad Carriers, with a waterproof layer, and plastic press studs.
3. Six washable Day Pads, each in six layer soft absorbant cotton.
4. Two washable Night Pads, each with nine layer soft absorbant cotton.
5. Two pairs of panties (difficult to secure in isolated areas).
6. One Day Purse, to carry an extra dry Day Pad.
7. One Wet Purse, to place the soiled pad, to wash at home.
8. One Soap Purse, with soap, to wash hands before and after changing pads.
9. Drying line and two pegs.
10. Small explanatory flyer.
The distribution of Freedom Kit Bags takes place after a workshop on women’s health and the reproductive cycle. Boys and men are encouraged to attend. Steps aim is to reduce stigma and improve relationships between men and women.
Steps uses a handbook: Ravika: It Happens at this Age.
This illustrated booklet tells the story of a young girl going through puberty. It is distributed to schools so that boys and girls can learn about puberty and reproduction in a culturally accepted manner.
Girls are encouraged to carry their Freedom Kit Bag with pride, and use the pads with confidence. They are taught that there is no shame in seeking medical attention if they have issues with their personal health.
Beni produced single sets of sanitary pads, that evolved into the first Freedom Kit Bags. The first bags were originated by Beni, Jennifer Pizer and Rosa Matheson (who coined the name), and today are produced by Beni Handicrafts.
The business provides training and income for women in need. Mountain People and Steps Foundation distribute the Kit Bags to outlaying villages.
Other organizations purchase Freedom Kit Bags from Beni Handicrafts, and have their own distribution systems.
References are available, should you wish to purchase for your project, or partake in an ongoing Steps/Mountain People project.