Small innovations, that can change the world - "Flo" allows girls and women living in poverty to properly and discreetly wash and dry reusable pads
"When teenage girls in Ethiopia have their periods, they wash their blood-stained rags in water from wells without using soap and hide them under their bed to wear again the next day. In Bangladesh, menstrual rags washed for reuse are sometimes squeezed into roof thatches to dry so that no one notices them. In parts of the world where families cannot afford disposable menstrual pads and the stigma around periods is deep, adolescent girls often use discreet, unsanitary ways to wash and dry pads crafted from rags. Moreover, lack of access to sanitary products and fear of menstrual leaks often compel girls to skip, or even drop out of, school. Now a solution is in sight.
This low-cost tool, called Flo, a new invention by three design students at the Art Center College of Design in California won the students -- Mariko Higaki Iwai, Sohyun Kim, and Tatijana Vasily -- the top honor for a student design at this year's International Design Excellence Awards, one of the world’s most prestigious design competitions.
Around the world, 90% of girls use reusable or improvised menstrual items, rather than expensive disposable menstrual products. For some, this means pads or rags, but for many, it means whatever absorbent material is close to hand: old clothes, newspapers, or even leaves. Since the taboo around menstruation is still strong in many areas, girls are often hesitant to properly clean and dry the products they use, making them a breeding ground for bacteria and increasing girls' risk of illness. Flo was created to address this problem.
The simple device involves a basket that’s held by two sturdy plastic bowls. Girls put their reusable pads into Flo, add water and detergent -- about half of what would be necessary for handwashing -- and spin it with two strings, cleaning the pads and cutting down on drying time. Girls can then hang the basket up to allow the pads to dry; a burlap cloth tied around the basket provides privacy so that girls can dry the material thoroughly in the sun which helps kill bacteria. The toolkit also includes a zip-top pouch so that girls can carry their pads discreetly.
Flo’s creators have collaborated on a business plan with students from the Yale School of Management to work toward making Flo available around the world to help the millions of girls and women who could benefit from it. The toolkit will cost less than $3, making it much more affordable than disposable pads which cost 60 cents a package in a country like Kenya. Mariko, Sohyun, and Tatijana hope that Flo will make a big difference to girls who have been forced to choose between attending school and hygiene;"
The Flo product website
The article in Tech Insider
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