We are testing the use of reusable menstrual hygiene pads and their link to an increase in girls' school attendance in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
In rural Indonesia, 17 percent of 512 surveyed students missed at least 1 day in the last period due to difficulties related to menstrual health management (Burnet Institute, 2015). Twenty-eight percent of students who linked their absence to menstrual management said their use, beliefs, and access to menstrual products was the main cause.
To solve this challenge, Annabel Buzink for SIMAVI (2015) suggested in her research that developing sanitary pads that are easy to use, inexpensive, recyclable and made from environmentally friendly materials would improve the girls’ experience.
One widely discussed topic in international development is cost-effective interventions to increase school participation. Kopernik is interested in exploring one such intervention by testing the impact of reusable menstrual pads on girls’ school attendance in East Sumba, one of our last mile project areas. For users of rags or other traditional menstrual products, reusable menstrual pads are more reliable, comfortable, and easier to clean and maintain. For users of disposable pads, reusable pads cut costs incurred each menstrual cycle. It does not, however, increase productivity because of the time it takes for the user to clean and maintain the pads. Taking into account this displacement of the status quo product, we want to see if our research participants benefit from having access to reusable pads, in terms of cost, waste management, productivity, and menstrual health.
Kopernik will conduct randomised research on 80 female students in a public middle school, SMPN Satu Atap Padadita Middle School in Kambera subdistrict of East Sumba, Indonesia.
The female students will be divided fairly into two groups: a treatment and a control group. Participants in the treatment group will receive the reusable menstrual pads in the beginning of the experiment, and the control group will receive it at the end. During the experiment, participants will fill in a menstrual diary with research-relevant information.
Kopernik’s Monitoring and Evaluation team will record data including:
- Self-reported school attendance;
- Reason for absence;
- Menstrual period days;
- Products used; and
- Health symptoms.
The results will be compared between the treatment and control groups. In addition, we will obtain several more indicators regarding personal habits, beliefs, and menstrual product use and disposal in the baseline and end line surveys conducted with guidance in the classroom, as well as school-recorded attendance.
THE EXPECTED IMPACT
At the end of the experiment, Kopernik will share and discuss the results in a reproductive health workshop, along with useful information regarding menstrual health management. Kopernik will also publish and share the results in a project report.
If access to reusable pads has indeed had a significant socioeconomic impact on our research participants, Kopernik will consider providing access to affordable, high-quality reusable pads for women in our project areas in East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
THE PROJECT RESULT
In East Sumba regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, Kopernik conducted an experiment to learn whether menstruation presents an economic and productivity barrier for school girls in rural Indonesia. We tested whether access to the Gee Gallery branded reusable sanitary pad (GG Pad) had the potential to alleviate these barriers. We conducted a small-scale randomized trial with female junior high school students, focusing on school attendance and the financial and waste impacts of menstruation practices.
Our hypothesis was that access to reusable sanitary pads leads to better school attendance during menstruation. We also hypothesized further that access to reusable sanitary pads has an impact on:
- increasing perceived menstrual comfort;
- reducing costs of managing menstrual hygiene;
- reducing environmental waste during menstruation.
Our experiment concluded that access to reusable sanitary pads had no significant impact on school attendance amongst the participants as menstruation had little impact on school attendance in the first place in the studied area.
The results showed that the reusable pads:
- were seen as comfortable but were difficult to wash and dry;
- provided very little economic benefit and the up-front cost of buying five reusable pads at a time was prohibitive in switching to 100 percent reusable pads;
- had potential for reducing non-biodegradable waste contributing to landfill or other disposal areas.
THE BROADER IMPACT
Download the project report above to read more.
Cost of technology, including shipping/building expenses
Cost of personnel and administration
Monitoring and Evaluation
Cost of data collection and reporting
Payment processing fee
Cost of processing online donations
Cost of operations
Kopernik Solutions provided a sub-grant to a trusted partner organisation who is implementing this project.