Here’s a visit from Aunt Flo that no girl will dread.
For girls living in low-income countries, the worst part of menstruation has nothing to do with the bloating or cramps. It's not having funds to buy pads, which means resorting to using unsanitary scraps or continuously washing rags that never get fully clean.
That injustice is what prompted a group of students at the Art Center College of Design to develop Flo, a simple and inexpensive device that allows girls to discreetly carry around their reusable sanitary pads and quickly and effectively wash them.
Across the globe, 90 percent of girls use reusable pads and rags instead of the more expensive disposable option, according to the group.
The situation is so dire in places like Kenya, for example, where a package of pads costs 60 cents – that girls are often left using leaves, newspapers, bits of mattress stuffing or even mud as a form of protection while they’re menstruating, according to Project Humanity.
Using reusable materials often poses health risks, and forces girls to live in utter discomfort for the week, because they can’t properly clean them.
Taboos keep girls from washing their pads with other clothes and they’re typically too ashamed to hang their pads outside after they’re washed. That means they remain damp inside and can contract bacteria.
Compounding the issue is the fact that many girls are too embarrassed to walk around with their pads, or can’t bear using unclean rags, that they’ll opt to skip school altogether.
Flo’s technology helps to address all of those issues.
It’s composed of two bowls, a basket, and string, and uses half the water and detergent than a standard hand washing method requires, according to the group’s site.
The spinning action inside the device cuts down drying time. After the initial wringing, Flo turns into a hanging rack for girls to dry their pads outside.
There’s also hidden pouch for girls to store their dirty and clean pads during the school day.
The students didn’t have the opportunity to do their own field research, so they relied on findings from the Nike Foundation and Fuseproject.
They tested the prototype with ketchup, soy sauce and animal blood.
Flo will be sold for $3.