Human Rights Watch studies reveal one in ten girls in Africa skip school during menstruation because they cannot afford sanitary pad.
The risk of some dropping out is also high, with the high levels poverty especially in rural communities.
There is however hope of reversing the trend as two Ghanaian students develop cheaper pad from banana stem.
Emily Otoo-Quayson and Matilda Sampong, both of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, are brains behind the innovation.
Miss Otoo-Quayson is a final year Civil Engineering student while Matilda Sampong is in the second year pursuing Business Administration.
“According to statistics about 95% of girls in rural areas miss classes during this period and we thought to do something about this,” said Otoo-Quayson.
Nonetheless, pads are made of plastic materials. These have been found to complicate embryonic development, as they can lead to organ damage.
Again, sanitary pads are not entirely made of cotton but a cellulose gel called dioxin.
Dioxin is listed by the WHO as a highly toxic environmental pollutant and has been linked to cancer and immune system damage.
The duo, therefore, set out to make a safer and environmentally friendly sanitary pad from cotton and Banana stem.
“This dioxin is harmful to the female reproductive system so we decided to develop a banana sanitary pad to make the pads healthful.”
Banana and plantain stem have proven to be effective absorbents.
“In the Western world they use these stems to produce paper bags and diapers but it’s not been used to produce sanitary pads,” they identified.
Tests show the banana sanitary pads made were able to absorb much water just like their western counterparts.
Interestingly, aside the environmental benefit, the banana sanitary pads are cheaper.
“The conventional ones you find on the market, the least is 5 cedis but for these ones because of the materials we used, it’s priced at 2 cedis,” they revealed.
The students are now looking for funding to carry out more research on the pads.