Of the nine schools in the country that were provided with the sanitary pad-processing machine, seven have started producing the pads. Two schools – Mongar Higher Secondary School and Orong Central School are yet to make use of the machine.

However, most of the schools that have started producing pads are yet to supply to the nearby schools, which is mandatory besides supplying for the needs of their own.

This is a part of education ministry’s Sherig pledge to make safe and low-cost sanitary pads available to every girl student in Bhutan made during the education conference in January. The project was launched during the conference in Phuentsholing.

Kamji Central School got the machine in March. Rest of the schools – Samtse Lower Secondary School (LSS), Nangkor CS, Zhemgang CS, Rangjung CS, Orong CS, Mongar Higher Secondary School (HSS), Damphu Central School, and Daga CS – received machines sometime in August.

Principals said that the sanitary pad has not only proved to be cheaper, but has also benefited economically disadvantaged students. However, there have been complaints from the users that edge of the pad wings hurt the thighs.

The pad is made from wood pulp, air-laid and synthetic paper. The sanitary pads are disinfected using ultraviolet rays in the disinfecting chamber. Teachers, supporting staffs, and students have been trained to make pads in all of the nine schools.

The project is supported by Empathy Foundation in India. The foundation provided sanitary pad processing machine and raw materials for free. One machine can produce 1,000 pads a day.

Principal of Mongar HSS, Kinga Rinchen, said that although the school had produced about 30 pads as demonstration, the school is yet to use the machine on a regular basis. Currently, the school is renovating the floor of store where machine is installed.

“From the feedback we received, most users said they preferred the ones available in market to the ones produced in schools,” Kinga Rinchen.

Ugyen Penjor, principal of Orong CS, said that since the staffs were just back from the training, they had not been able to make use of the machine. “But we’ve always been buying sanitary napkins from town and distributing them to 280 boarding students.”

Since the installation of the machine, Zhemgang CS has produced about 2,000 pads and were used in the school. The school produces about 100 pads in a day. About five girl students make the sanitary napkins for one hour after the school.

Principal Rinzin Namgyal said the school has not been able to supply the pads to other schools because of time constraints. “As we got the machine after the mid-term break, most of the girls had already brought napkins from town in stock. We’ve told them they shouldn’t worry from next time.”

The school’s matron, Sonam Wangmo, said most of the girls who used the pads shared that the pad was durable, thicker, effective, and leakage proof, especially while sleeping. “A few said the edges of the pad was rough.”

Nangkor CS distributed about 20 pads each to four schools for feedback. Daga CS distributed to about five schools, Damphu CS distributed to about three schools, Samtse LSS supplied to about five remote schools, and Kamji CS supplied about 500 pads each to two schools for Nu 1.5 per pad.

The sanitary pads are provided free to the students as of now but a nominal fee would be charged in the future for sustainability, which would mean about Nu 2 per piece.

“We produced about 1,000 pads and have 800 in stock. We have trained about 150 girls and 10 boys. They take turns to make the pads,” Damphu CS Principal Dawa Tshering said.

Principal of Kamji CS, Pema Rinchen, said that after a few girls complained about the size and comfort of the pad, the school increased the thickness of the pad to absorb period for longer time. A total of 445 girls used the napkins produced in the school.

The pads are also environmentally friendly.

Education Minister in an earlier interview with the Kuensel said that schoolgirls no longer have to use rags and undergo menstruation related problems in the schools. “Our girls will no longer have to undergo indignity, disrespect, and shame because of menstruation.”

Yangchen C Rinzin