Activists' practical sanitary pads to bring change

Rhona Raftie and Ntosh Manzini are making 100 reusable sanitary towels to donate to women in need.
PRACTICAL THINKERS: Rhona Raftie and Ntosh Manzini are making 100 reusable sanitary towels to donate to women in need.
Image: MADELEINE CHAPUT

Two local women have been hard at work making 100 reusable sanitary towels for women and girls in need.

First City Baptist Church social worker Ntosh Manzini and retired seamstress Rhona Raftie plan to donate the sanitary towels to underprivileged women at the church's annual Christmas event next Thursday.

The project, initiated by Manzini, officially took off in July after Raftie offered her extensive sewing skills.

Using their own design, they combined cotton fabric, towelling and plastic sheeting. The reusable sanitary towels are to be handed out to the women with whom the church's outreach centre works.

Manzini said: “As the church, we mainly deal with sex workers and try to help those who want to get out of that life. The problem of basic hygiene and basic necessities is a big one and we want to help as much as possible.

“I first saw the idea of reusable sanitary towels in 2017. It took a long time to find someone willing to help and to teach me how to sew, as well as researching different designs and methods of making the pads.”

Reusable sanitary towels in the making.
SUSTAINABLE: Reusable sanitary towels in the making.
Image: MADELEINE CHAPUT

Raftie, who has donated her time and 20 years of sewing experience to the project, said the reusable sanitary towels were made using a similar design to mainstream disposable ones and were just as comfortable.

“It's horrible how many women and young girls have to do without sanitary towels, especially when it affects their education. What's great about the reusable pads is that they can be washed and used again so if women have two or three of these, there's no need to buy more for at least a year,” said Raftie.

While the project has started out with just two women and an old sewing machine, Manzini hopes to develop it into a skills training programme, whereby unemployed women can learn to sew and sell their products for a profit.

Manzini said: “The idea is to donate them to schools and women in need on a regular basis.

“But we need more sewers so we also want this to become a skills training centre whereby unemployed women have the opportunity to learn how to earn an income in a positive way. We don't want women in need to look at prostitution as the only way to make a living.”

Manzini said the women would be taught how to make aprons, bags, clothing items as well as the reusable sanitary towels, and that while the women would be able to keep a portion of the funds from their sales, the remaining profits would fund the materials for the reusable sanitary towels.

Raftie said: “It's a lot of work because there's quite a bit of hand sewing that needs to be done on each sanitary towel, so we hope that by this time next year more people would have joined in.”

MadeleineC@dispatch.co.za


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