This Device Making Menstruation Safer for Girls Living in Poverty

The inability to access affordable feminine sanitary products has ramifications far beyond hygiene.

Image by Mariko Higaki Iwai

For girls living in extreme poverty around the globe, getting their periods can be a particularly trying ordeal. Inaccessible or unaffordable sanitary items mean that many young women are left using and reusing menstrual pads over and over again — a process that can be both time-consuming and, particularly, unhygienic.


What’s more, the inability to access affordable feminine sanitary products has ramifications far beyond hygiene. Stigmas against menstruation, coupled with fears over the unreliability of insufficiently cleaned pads, lead some girls in impoverished rural communities to simply sequester themselves at home during their periods, or even drop out of school entirely.

With this in mind, a team of students from the Art Center College of Design has created “Flo,” a multi-purpose device that allows women living in poverty to more effectively clean, dry, and carry around their reusable menstrual pads, thereby making periods safer, and less disruptive to their lives.

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As co-creator Mariko Higaki Iwai explains, Flo went through a number of testing iterations based on data provided by fieldwork done by the Nike Foundation and Fuseproject, before arriving at its final design.

On its website, the James Dyson Foundation zeroes in on what makes Flo so powerful a tool:

Girls will have access to dry, clean pads that can reduce illness and will be more comfortable, both physically, and emotionally. Girls will be able to work around their menstrual cycle and be in control. By having control over their menstrual cycle, girls do not have to give up on their dreams and can be empowered to pursue what she wants to become.

Flo, reports Business Insider, has already been selected as a top prize winner at the 2016 International Design Excellence Awards. Students from the Yale School of Management are working to develop a roll-out plan for the product, with Flo expected to retail for under $3.

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