To be able to choose between a cloth and pad is a privilege that most women of third world countries do not possess. Courtesy of period poverty, many resort to using rags, banana leaves, feathers, mattress stuffing and even cow dung to manage their menstruation because pads are a luxury they cannot afford. This leads to various infections, especially urinary tract diseases. Therefore, the question of whether or not a cloth is hygienic is beside the point. Obviously, the answer is no. It’s not. It doesn’t provide the required absorbency and breathability that a pad does, which is something that’s imperative when it comes to menstrual management and hygiene.
No matter how many times you wash that cloth, the germs don’t escape it. In fact, water shortage and lack of well-equipped public washrooms further make it difficult for women to clean their menstrual rags or clean them well. They often feel embarrassed and end up succumbing to societal pressure of staying at home and be marginalized whilst on their period. This, coupled with the fact that many cultures expect menstruating women to separate themselves from society during that time of the month, makes it even more traumatizing for them to lead normal lives during that time. Not only does this contribute to absenteeism in schools but also leads to less and less women joining the workforce.
Hence, pads need to become more and more accessible especially to rural women. Therefore, Butterfly’s collaboration with HER Pakistan aims to do exactly that. It is common knowledge that sanitary pads are the healthier choice and Butterfly is making it a point to provide them to all those who can’t afford it.
The conversation of choosing a pad over a cloth is an important one to have, no doubt. Women in underprivileged areas must be made aware of the consequences and drawbacks of a cloth – it’s leaking and non-absorbent qualities combined. However, on the other hand, pads must also be transformed from a luxury item to an accessible commodity so women can actually have choices.
The simplest of answers, therefore, is: pads are the more hygienic choice, not cloth, but period poverty has turned them into a luxury not many can afford.