In many countries, menstruating can be a difficult time for girls and women, girls miss their classes during menstruation or leave school completely, due to a lack of safe menstrual products. Wherever there is water, cloth pads are the best long-term alternative for self sufficiency and waste reduction.
We are taking completely new steps – Kulmine wants to make our most popular sewing pattern called Hela available for non-profit purposes and projects, worldwide. We want to empower women to actively shape their own menstruation and their menstrual hygiene.
The different conditions for women
In many countries around the world, there is a fundamental problem, which hasn't affected us in the westernized world drastically for some years, and which we thus often overlook. The selection of menstrual products in our countries is so extensive, that almost all of us are well supplied and can even switch to ecological alternatives like menstrual cups or cloth pads, if we feel like it. Menstruating sadly can't be taken as granted in many places.
Besides stigma that affects menstruating women, which excludes them from the communal life, there is the fundamental problem of a lack of affordable menstrual products. The girls and women have to ask themselves every cycle: What can I use to absorb the flow? Do I have the money to pay for menstrual products this month? Many women and young girls cannot afford these products and therefore have to stay at home throughout their period – they cannot go to school or work. This is without a doubt, a big problem. Students miss important topics, in some cases they stop going to school altogether. 1 in 10 girls leaves school due to this problem. 
Other women buy menstrual products every month, and spend money which they actually need for other purposes. This is still a problem, also in our westernized world, and affects women living in poverty and especially those that are homeless. Women without shelter often do not have enough access to clean water, and they too have the problem of purchasing the menstrual products. Due to these reasons they mainly use disposables that they can get their hands on. Those women that do have access to clean water, should be empowered to have the choice to use the menstrual products that work best for them. Due to the initial cost of reusable products like cloth pads and menstrual cups, this choice is often non-existant for women with financial difficulties.
Progress against all odds
In the last few years some progress has been made regarding menstrual hygiene for women in poorer countries. Before it was long ignored due to the taboo of menstruation, which unfortunately is still prevalent worldwide. Some companies that sell reusable menstrual products have made it their mission to help. To name an example, Lunette is active in this regard. They work together with theCup. This organisation has donated 2.000 menstrual cups and instructive courses in the last year in Kenya. This year, their goal is to donate 10.000 cups.
Menstrual cups are a great, cheap and safe way to menstruate for women, as long as they have the means to empty them throughout the day and to clean them with clean water. Sadly this is often not possible, many schools still do not have toilets for example. Furthermore there is a gruesome tradition prevalent in some African countries – female genital mutilation, which makes insertion of a cup difficult to impossible in severe cases.
For young women, even if they have not been mutilated, insertion may nevertheless prove difficult.
Cloth pads are the better, safer hygienic method in these cases. They are similarly cheap for the women and still ecologically unproblematic. They can be changed even without access to a clean toilet, and later washed once there is access to clean water.
Kulmine has donated patterns, fabric and sewing materials in the past to a project in Kenya. Through this, a small sewing mill for cloth pads was opened. Sewing projects like this and others, allow women to take initiative and is a sustainable investment for long-term changes!
Hela – advantages, usage, washing
Just in time for the world menstrual hygiene day, Kulmine wants to take a completely new step, and make the sewing pattern for our most popular product – the Hela – available worlwide for non-commercial use.
All following information is mentioned in the freebook, so the instructions are available for even those, who don't have the option to research online.
- stays in place in almost any type and shape of underwear
- no buttons necessary, therefore reduced costs
- can be manufactured using one single cut
- easy manufacturing using a sewing machine or even by hand
- 1 – the base (the short connecting middle part) is placed unter your knickers
- 2+3 – the lengths are folded on to your knickers, so that they lie on top of each other
- if necessary the lower side can be folded to be on top
- can easily be combined with a pad (in a classical shape)
- wash directly after usage or
- rinse shortly, let it dry and wash with the next opportunity (soak before if needed)
- soak until the next load of washing (change water daily)
- 60° celsius gets rid of almost all germs
- pull into shape after washing and smooth it down
Reviews of our customers
“I am so thrilled about the Maxi Helas and feel completely save with them. They stay comfortably in the spot and are more flexible then the narrow folded Maxi Foldable Kulmine. Thus they are really ideal for riding and dancing.”
“Untill now I actually used... lets say generously cut and comfortable knickers with a lot of cloth (my so called menstruation-knickers) for my whole menstruation. ^^ But the Hela also remains secure in knickers that are more narrow! Generally I have to day: I love the feeling, that the Helas stay better on the spot then the winged Kulmines.”
“Because I am just using my new Helas I just have to tell you, that they have become my absolute favourite. I wash the next load of washing extra fast so I can use them repeatedly - they are that comfortable. Finaly I can ride my bike normaly and do my body training with a machine with a pad. The narrow asymmetrical middle part is perfect, because I can put it more in front or the back, so that I barely feel anything. Absolutly wonderfull!”
We very much look forward to pictures and reports of projects and people that use our sewing pattern to empower women worldwide and to help them menstruate safely.
How to participate
You can support our initiative by spreading the word, passing on the cutting pattern and raising awareness for cloth pads.
If you like sewing:
visit donatepads.org – a list of organisations who accept clothpads and distribute them localy to girls and women.
A big event already took place in GB: Bryony Farmer, owner of the videochannels Precious Star Pads, collected donations for making 100 sets with washable pads and gave them to women in need.
Maybe foodbanks in your region would also like to hand out clothpads to those who need them – inquire about this option!
A big and warm “thank you” goes out to all the incredible wonderful women that made this whole project possible! You are the best. :-)
This idea was created for the Menstrual Hygiene Day on the 28th May. It‘s organized by the Berlin based NGO WASH United – international organisations are campaigning for the removal of taboos, education and alternatives.