We take having 4 weeks in a month for granted, but imagine getting to 12 years old and all of a sudden there are only 3 weeks in a month. The reason for that dreaded and lost 4th week, nobody wants to talk to about it, nobody wants to help you…

In too many communities in the world menstruation is a taboo subject. There is little to no advice available for girls and no access to affordable sanitary pads, forcing women and girls to use rags and in some cases leaves, causing the contraction of menstrual diseases. The stigma and lack of understanding results in girls feeling like they have to stay at home, missing out on as much as 25% of their education or dropping out altogether.

But there is a solution. What if there was a permanent supply of affordable sanitary towels in that and every community? What if no girl had to miss a single day of school because of the natural process every girl goes through?

Even still, it is not enough to merely provide a menstrual solution. Many communities have myths, stigmas and misconceptions surrounding menstruation. Communities need education to break down these issues to help create equality and understanding, especially during the critical age for a young girl.

The Petal brand established community owned micro-enterprises, which make and sell the sanitary towels at 10% the cost of commercial alternatives. Alongside supplying sanitary towels, the entrepreneurs deliver free education on menstruation in schools, churches and community groups. Petal works with partners and the micro-enterprise entrepreneurs to find ways of educating boys and men in communities as well; ultimately creating a universal understanding of a natural process. The education includes the importance of hygiene, the symptoms of common diseases and highlights that a period is a natural, healthy process.

Helping to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Since the micro-enterprise operates as a business, the education whilst free, has a very tangible marketing effect for the micro-enterprise, as girls develop a desire to use sanitary towels, increasing sales. Each micro-enterprise is owned and operated by groups of women. This provides full-time employment to local women, whilst combining the necessity of a menstrual solution with the sustainability of a commercial business.

Local sourcing and production makes the towels affordable to those living on less than $5 a day. This also makes it profitable enough to sustain the micro-enterprise and generate profit that allows the business to grow and supply more local women and girls.

This solution provides girls an opportunity to gain an education and sustain full-time employment. The micro-enterprises break down the social stigmas faced by local women and provide a sustainable solution for menstrual health management as they move through their life.

Sustainable employment is one of the main benefits of this micro-enterprise. The entrepreneurs, (often single parents) are able to earn at least the communities average income; as a base salary. This provides the incentive that underpins the sustainable supply of sanitary towels.

This is the perfect example of the empowerment of women in action. The micro-enterprises do not just help women, girls and the entrepreneurs, but the community as whole. With a better understanding of menstrual health breaking down social stigmas, the better educated young girls can now grow to become valued and respected contributing members of their societies. It all starts with a 12 year old girl with access to a sanitary towel.

Summary

 

Petal micro-enterprises make and sell reusable sanitary towels. The entrepreneurs also deliver free education on menstruation to women and men. Building a universal understanding of the natural process to erase any social stigmas.
Depending on local costs, the towels are sold at at little as 10% the price of commercial alternatives.

Origins

The Petal micro-enterprise model was born and rebranded from the Enactus Southampton project SanEco. A project started by students at the University of Southampton in November 2012, with the aim to enable equal access to education and work for women and girls. SanEco started by working with single mothers in Kisii, Kenya, with project partner RETEC Riamogire.

The project’s success was in the ability of the SanEco entrepreneurs to tailor menstrual health education to address local stigmas, to the level where they were able to educate men and boys; a valuable community service continued to date. WSV’s ongoing relationship with SanEco provides a pipeline of new ideas and innovations, from some of the top socially minded university students in the country.

Read more on Petal's Origin

Some facts

 

- Education is one of the major barriers to female empowerment
- Girls without suitable sanitary towels miss up to 25% of their education
- Commercial sanitary towels on average cost 20% of a household's income, per woman
- Without affordable sanitary towels, women and girls use rags and in some cases leaves as sanitary towels

How Petal Operates

 

Petal operates on the WSV Social Franchise model, where NGOs can purchase a license for the business models, starting with a pilot license or try-before-you-buy. The Petal team provides training and step by step guides to customers, with the options for continual support across various areas and access to the Franchise network.

Petal constantly improve their sanitary towel options to address the wide range of women's needs. A lot of the team's focus is on behaviour change, ensuring the delivery of the menstrual education is appropriate and effective for a community.

How the Model Works

The Community Benefits:

 

- Provides access to affordable sanitary towels to the community.
- Delivery of community education on the importance of good menstrual health.
- Break down gender barriers through increased understanding of menstrual cycles, and women not secluding themselves during menstruation.
- Increased awareness of menstrual diseases and how to prevent their occurrence and transmission.
- Improved confidence in women and girls.
- Sanitary towel packs are priced so they are affordable and can be as low as 5% the cost of commercial alternatives; giving access to sanitary pads for those who previously had none.
- The towels are reusable for a recommended 4 months, with a life of up to 2 years.
- The sanitary pads can be sold to wholesale to support local distributors.
- Women and girls can now work, study and enjoy an extra 91 days every year.
- A livelihood for the employees of the micro-enterprise.
- A scalable business owned by community members.
- Local and regional economic development from educated young women.
- Locally sourced materials stimulating the local economy.
- Being supplied by a micro-enterprise that is a part of a social franchise network allows the community to benefit from improvements to the solutions developed across the world.