Flo, the solution to the menstruation taboo in rural communities

A team of students have designed an efficient, eco-friendly way for impoverished adolescent girls to manage menstruation.

Cramps, bloating, breakouts, menstrual leaks, and sometimes severe mood swings are just some of the pains girls deal with when they reach puberty. These symptoms are multiplied tenfold in rural communities where girls, facing extreme social pressure, are made to feel ashamed of their changing bodies.

Strict societal pressures force impoverished girls to keep their cycles secret, hiding used sanitary towels in walls, under beds, and on roofs. A large number of girls even drop out of school to guard against menstrual leaks as they cannot afford disposable sanitary pads.

A group of students at the Art Center College of Design in California tackled this issue by developing Flo, a toolkit that allows girls living in poverty to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.

“Because of social norms, it is prohibited to wash used rags or reusable pads with other clothes or dry them in public. Consequently, they are hidden under the bed, on top of the roof, or inside cracks in the wall. Rags and reusable pads are always wet and are causing reproductive infections and illnesses,” said the team.

The team set out to develop a system that would provide privacy, an opportunity to properly clean reusable sanitary pads, and a way to change negative views about menstruation.

The team developed Flo, two bowls, a basket and a string that uses a spinning action to wash and dry reusable sanitary towels in a fraction of the time it takes to hand wash and dry. It also provides privacy as the public would not be able to see the fabrics inside the bowls.

Flo comes with a resealable zip-top pouch in which girls can safely and secretly carry their pads to and from school.

“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,” the team added.

The invention has been entered in IDSA IDEA, Core77 Design Awards, Red Dot Awards, and Spark Awards.