Reusable sanitary pads bring girls back to the classroom
NPO founder inspired after noting how struggling pupils missed several days of school every month
Local Hero nominee Lindy van der Vyver, 64, from Kei Road, spends ten hours a week cutting fabric and sewing buttons onto renewable sanitary pads to help young girls stay in school through her NPC, Made for Girls.
“Girls miss five days of school a month because they have no access to menstrual products.”
Made for Girls has produced and donated 10,000 environmentally friendly reusable fabric pads to 2,500 pupils across the area since starting in 2020.
Inspired by a Facebook video, Van der Vyver enlisted the help of family and friends.
“I saw a video about girls in rural areas who don’t go to school because they don’t have hygiene products. My friend Gail Burfey and I sat and worked out how to make them, got a patent together and that was the start. There are three of us, my friend Gail and my daughter Hayley.”
Donations have gone to communities in Alexandria, East London, Haga Haga, Hamburg, Katberg, Kaysers Beach, Koemga and Stutterheim.
“This is my small way of giving back. So many girls have no money to buy pads; these can be used over and over again.”
The pads are hygienic, washable and contain no perfumes or chemicals. Shaped like winged sanitary pads, special fabrics are layered for hygiene and comfort.
“The top layer is cotton — we try to find pretty colours with flowers. Towelling is sewn onto the top layer. Then comes a thin waterproof material. The last layer is plain fabric. We employ a seamstress to sew them all together as one.”
Van der Vyver and Burfey cut out layers before they are sewn together and secure press-studs before the pads are ready.
“We go to the schools and a young woman comes with us and explains in Xhosa how to use the pads. We try to teach that it’s not a stigma and that a period is normal. Even the teachers are gobsmacked and ask for them as well!
“To create a safe environment, we sing or dance to break the atmosphere. We have a board with a picture of the female reproductive system that shows how the uterus works. The girls get quite embarrassed but we tell them it’s normal and to talk to their friends about it. We then take out the pads and show them how to use them.”
Made for Girls receives requests through their Facebook page.
“At the end of this month, we will be giving 800 pads to 200 Westbank High School girls, which is a lot. Each girl receives four reusable pads which last for months.”
With no official sponsors, the biggest challenge for the organisation is financial unpredictability.
“We rely on donations and prefer money because the materials are quite specific. Each pad costs between R6 to R8. The pads can be used for over a year, which is a help for people living on the breadline.”
The Local Hero nomination came as a wonderful surprise.
“We are not a big charity but we chug along. We rely on monetary donations and do what we can with what we’ve got. To be recognised is fantastic!”
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