Eco Femme Subsidized Pads
Kathy Walkling and Jessamijn Miedema
Eco Femme washable cloth pads are made of absorbent flannel cotton and worn like disposable pads to absorb menstrual flow. They can be washed and re-used for 75 washes with proper care. These pads are priced to be affordable for economically disadvantaged women in India.
Eco Femme targets India for its health impact, but also distributes internationally. On average, Eco Femme sells 880 pads per month in India, and 1,370 internationally (across 16 countries including UK, USA, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Spain, Germany, Mexico).
Individual pads cost about 10 USD as of September 2017. They also have a pad for pad program, along with a pricing model that divides Premium and Subsidized prices to allow pads purchased at the Premium price to support rural women and girls with financial barriers.
Traditional methods (ex. reusable cloth), Commercial menstrual pads (ex. Always brand), Unsanitary materials (ex.old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers)
Economically disadvantaged women in India.
Cloth washable menstrual pads are simple to stitch and can be done so by any rural woman with a sewing machine and basic tailoring skills. Though Eco Femme began with 15 female members of the Auroville Village Action’s self-help groups who had received advanced tailoring training and could stitch Eco Femme cloth pads, their plans are to expand and empower women in India to stitch these cloth pads and earn compensation per pad.
The product is assumed to be trade secret, as nothing exists to suggest the pad design has been patented.
Purchase from a retailer or directly from the manufacturer. The Pad for Pad Program also allows adolescent girls and women in rural India to receive pads for free, as subsidized by international sales or donated by other women in India.
As of July 2015, Eco Femme estimates that they have sold approximately 55,000 washable cloth pads.
Eco Femme states that their products can last for 5 years, as the washable cloth pads have a leakproof layer of PUL (polyurethane laminate) which will last for approximately 75 washes.
Eco Femme aims to produce products and practices that are healthy, dignified, affordable and eco-positive. Through their Pad for Pad Program, Eco Femme set a target to reach out to 10,000 girls by March 31, 2017.
Pads should be washed regularly to ensure safety and health. Experts have indicated that user compliance to cleaning instructions (i.e. sanitizing the pads properly between uses) could pose a challenge (e.g. lack of clean water, disinfectant soap etc.). Improper cleaning of the pads between uses could result in the pads carrying pathogens which could have detrimental health effects, effectively posing a similar risk as traditional reusable cloth napkins made from old saris etc.
While the research conducted by Eco Femme has not been published in academic journals, the studies they ran and results are shared through the company website. Research through focus groups, one-to-one interviews, and evaluation sessions to learn about menstrual beliefs and practices in India, and then product-testing of three models of Eco Femme pads with women over a two-year study.
Eco Femme conducted product testing with over 850 women and girls in rural India and reports that their product range found acceptance and appeal among a wide range of women from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Eco Femme made product revisions based on the insights gained from this product testing and the most popular models are now available for distribution.
The pads are made from hypoallergenic cotton to promote healthy skin.
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