Empowering Women through Volta Pads
This spring, the Volta Pads Team worked to solve a problem faced by many women in Ghana: limited access to costly disposable menstrual pads.
Discovering a pressing social issue
Members of the Volta Pads Team, through ethnography conducted in prior years and new research, discovered that a lack of menstrual care products was not only a difficult practical problem for women in Woadze Tsatoe but also had much greater implications. According to them, in communities where this issue exists, “women can’t go to school when they’re menstruating” and in some cases, girls are so desperate for menstrual care that they enter into early marriages in order to afford pads or “get pregnant so that they don’t get their period.”
In Woadze Tsatoe, specifically, the team found a sustainable solution to the problem that utilizes the passion and expertise in sewing from the Amenuveve Batik Center: creating reusable pads themselves. When reusable pads were first introduced to the village, the “women fell in love.” While the product was well liked by most, some cultural sensitivity was associated with the idea of reusable pads, with notable hesitation among women from older generations. Some believed that reusable pads symbolized being poor, dirty, and not of high enough status to buy disposable pads. The Volta Pads team sought to dismantle these stereotypes by not only helping Woadze Tsatoe develop the pads themselves, but also educating the women on how to use them and the benefits of doing so.
From idea to business
In the spring, research on reusable pads and the creation of a corresponding health education program was done in the spring. Over the summer, team members created spreadsheets for financial tracking, made an education series on how to run Volta Pads as a business, sourced fabrics for the prototype, reached out to potential partners, and worked on the branding. As a result of their persistent effort to make connections in the industry, the team was also able to receive mentorship from another big reusable pad business, where they were fortunate enough to learn from their business model and methods of production.
Challenges stemming from Covid-19
The difficulties the Volta Pads team faced during this process came largely from their inability to visit Woadze Tsatoe due to Covid-19. This stunted their plan for ethnography on the ground in Ghana as well as surveying the user preferences of the village. The latter issue was highlighted during branding, as the U.S. based team had opinions on color schemes and logos that differed from the women in Woadze Tsatoe. The team members reflected that “approaching everything with an American mindset isn’t always the right way” because ultimately they wanted Volta Pads to be built “for Ghanaians by Ghanaians.”
Volta Pads team on-site in Woadze Tsatoe (left) and in the U.S. (right). The U.S. team consists of Angelique Pompee, Keara St. Fort, and Tishya Dua.
Ensuring longterm success
The next step of the project has been to appoint people in Woadze Tsatoe into Volta Pads roles so that it can become a self-sustaining business. The first major appointment was the Volta Pads Coordinator and Head of Education, Gloria Afele, who will use her background in nursing to lead educational training on the reusable pads. Currently, the Volta Pads team is working to fill in the rest of the positions, create training sessions for the employees, and finally, start the prototyping phase. The team’s approach of researching, educating, and assigning roles prior to the start of production ensures that the business will be stable and long lasting.
The Volta Pads team has cited the project as a huge learning experience. Notable takeaways from the group include the importance of “being persistent when you're small and unknown and you need to make a name for yourself”— with regards to reaching out to bigger companies for help— and the rewarding nature of working on “the operations and backend of a socially impactful project.” The team has found purpose in listening to the experiences of the Woadze Tsatoe women, and they look forward to continuing work on the project.
This piece was written by Amenuveve intern, Shefali Tamaskar, and edited by Denalia Zhi.
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