A group of students have developed an astoundingly simple way of helping women in developing countries cope with the lack of access to disposable sanitary towels.
Flo, is an easy-to-use handheld device that washes period rags quickly, cheaply and discreetly.
Composed of two PVC cases, metal wire and string, it works using a spinning action.
Since it only requires a small volume of washing powder and water the cost is kept to a minimum and once the rags have been cleaned, the gadget turns into a drying rack.
Flo is the brainchild of Mariko Higaki Iwai, Sohyun Kim and Tatijana Vasily, students at the ArtCenter College of Design, California.
Since they were not able to visit their would-be customers in person, they used data from the Nike Foundation and Fuse Project to power Flo’s development.
In Kenya, a pack of eight sanitary pads cost a little under a month’s wages, Canadian charity Femme International reports.
In one calendar month they estimate that women will need at least two packages — a financial ask that many can not afford to meet.
Plan UK, highlights that this burden of cost is felt worldwide with only 12 percent of girls and women having access to sanitary products around the world.
Most make do with dirty rags, newspaper, leaves and dirt, as a sanitary towel substitutes.
Iwai and her team aim to solve these problems by selling Flo for $3 (£1.92) and also providing girls with a zip-top pouch that they can use to carry their clean towels discreetly.
The taboo around menstruation means that women are not free to dry their soiled washing in public or indeed, mix with mainstream society when they are on their period.
A story published by the BBC last year, articulated how Indian women can at times be treated as ‘untouchables’ during ‘that time of the month.’
“I’m not allowed into the kitchen, I can’t enter the temple, I can’t sit with others,” 32-year-old Manju Baluni explained.
“I was taught the trick by my elder sisters – how to slip these stained clothes under other clothes without any men noticing them. We could not risk putting them out in the open under the sun to dry completely.”
While Flo and its accompanying underwear pouch may not address or solve every menstruation taboo women in the developing world face, it will hopefully start to alleviate the burden it carries.
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