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Eco-friendly and economical sanitary pads
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Eco-friendly and economical sanitary pads

Two young Samoans are helping to make environmentally friendly sanitary napkins available to girls and women in their community who need them. The two change-makers were finalists in the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2019. Maisy Bentley, 19 years old,a Correspondent from Wellington, New Zealand has been following their story.

The Pacific Islands are known for beautiful weather paired with crystal clear oceans, perfect for holiday goers. However, the picture-perfect magazine spreads are becoming more distant from reality with ocean pollution and dramatic and dangerous cyclones increasing in frequency.

While the Pacific is one of the regions grappling with the realities of climate change; this region is also producing leaders who are addressing and responding to climate issues.

Angelica and Isabell Rasch showing their eco-friendly and economical feminine pads

Angelica and Isabell Rasch are co-founders of Mana Care; a start-up which produces reusable sanitary pads for women and girls living in poverty and low-income households. Their initiative is also aimed at reducing the consumption of disposable plastic waste and encouraging a low-carbon lifestyle. It has provided reusable pads to over 250 women and trained 100 girls in safe menstrual health management.

Angelica noted that: “In Samoa, and many developing countries – but especially in isolated and land-limited island countries – solid waste management and accessing menstrual products are big problems.”

Feminine hygiene products are generally single-use items made from plastics and are not only harms the environment but to women’s bodies too, said the co-founder of Mana-Care and Commonwealth award finalist, Angelica.

Angelica, along with her co-founder Isabella run Mana-Care and make environmentally-friendly reusable cloth pads, to replace these harmful products. The team of only two women hand make their products from three types of material that are 80% biodegradable. One set of cloth pads can last up to five years, replacing around 1200 disposable plastic pads which take around 200-400 years to decompose in the natural environment.

Angelica says the products not only address the increasing threat of climate change by reducing the use of toxic plastic containing products but also address es period poverty. Period poverty refers not just the financial burden, but the health, education and social impacts on women and girls associated with menstrual management.

It wasn’t just the rising sea levels that prompted Angelica and Bella to act. Their own experiences and first-hand accounts of families who could not afford the ongoing cost of disposable menstrual products spurred them into action.

“We could not ignore it any longer. We wanted to solve these two big problems with one simple solution: an environmentally friendly and reusable cloth pad, that is cheap and easily available for women and girls of all socio-economic levels.”

While it is only a two-woman team presently, Angelica and Isabella know the importance of creating a wider movement. Holding free workshops for identified rural communities to teach young women how to hand sew their own reusable cloth pads from simple materials available from local stores and supermarkets is first on the cards. Additionally, teaching them how to properly wash, dry and care for the cloth pads to ensure safety and cleanliness to create a sustainable solution is next.

Angelica and Isabella have a wealth of success under their belt already, big plans for the future and changing the lives of women and girls in their country and region is their motivation. However they still have some of the challenges of many young entrepreneurs and changemakers, -balancing their passions.

“It is not easy figuring out how we allocate our time, and sacrifices have to be made at the end of the day. But we believe so much in this work and the right every girl and woman has, to a dignified, safe and healthy life – and we want the dismissal of menstruation to end with our generation,” said Isabella.

While they continue to find the balance in their own lives and change the lives of women across Samoa, they ask that other young people simple take the time to care:“About your planet, [about making conscious decisions and eliminating plastic,] about your neighbour, about the people around you even if you don’t know them,” said Angelica.

Empathy is a highly honourable and useful ability which can create waves of positive change in the world,” she added.

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Photo: Courtesy of Mana-Care

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About me: I’m studying towards a law degree and an arts degree. I also work in the not for profit sector, creating opportunities and advocating for young people, mental health, and women. I have significant accolades under my belt such as being named the most inspirational young person of the year and delivering a Ted Talk at 17. I believe that we can all be movers, shakers and doers when we don’t wait for permission to create the change we want to see in the world.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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