The Kit That Makes Menstruation Safer in Developing Areas

When Aunt Flo pays a visit, ‘Flo’ is there to make things easier.

Sep 10, 2015
Mariko Higaki Iwai

The Flo kit includes a bowl which, when pulled from both sides, washes and dries the reusable pads. 

Leave it to college students to find an easy-to-use, cost-effective tool to help those in need. Mariko Higaki Iwai, Sohyun Kim, and Tatijana Vasily are all students at the Art Center College of Design in California and the creators of Flo, a kit for cleaning and storing reusable sanitary pads.

In parts of the world where menstruation is stigmatized, pads and tampons aren’t always readily available - and, if they are, they’re expensive.  Because of the taboo surrounding periods in these regions, women and girls must discreetly wash and dry reusable pads, while keeping them out of sight. The resulting low standard of menstrual hygiene leads to infection, reproductive illnesses, and poor attendance at school.

If only there was a way to wash and dry menstrual cloths that would reduce the added stress these women and girls experience each month. Well, now there is. Flo is an innovative approach to improving menstrual hygiene that circumvents the cultural stigmas and superstitions regarding periods that are prevalent in developing countries.

Creator demonstrates Flo's drying apparatusThe Flo kit can be deconstructed to serve as a drying apparatus that still keeps the cloths hidden 

First, the soiled sanitary cloth is placed inside a basket made up of two plastic bowls joined together with nylon. The bowl holds the water and detergent, as well as shields the cloths from view.  The user then uses the attached strings to give the bowl a spin, which cleans and partially dries the pads. When detached, the string and basket double as a small drying apparatus that hides the pads with burlap so that the user can still dry them under the sun, which kills bacteria. The kit also comes with a zip-top pouch that attaches to the inside of underwear so that the girls can privately carry the reusable pad to school. At only $3 per kit, this product is both affordable and - according to its creators - has the potential to one day change the mindset towards menstrual cycles to be socially acceptable.

While Flo is still in the development phase, Mariko Higaki Iwai hopes that others become inspired by their initiative to do good for girls around the world in their own way. As Iwai says, “our solution is just a solution, it’s not the solution. Watching news of this problem spread around the world—I hope that others think of more solutions and products that can help girls.”

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Mirele writes about everything related to doing good, with a particular interest in volunteering and social entrepreneurship, informed by her background in eco tourism.

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