Water Hyacinth - CBranstoWater Hyacinth Sanitary Pad Project

An Abundant Source Solution Addressing Girls Education, Employing Women while Tackling an Environmental Crisis

The Water Hyacinth Sanitary Pad Project is a sustainable social enterprise that produces biodegradable sanitary pads out of water hyacinth, an invasive aquatic species sustains income-generating jobs and provides girls with access to necessary personal hygiene products.

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The beauty of this project continues to unfold on a daily basis. A great place to work and a way for women to help other women. Getting to know these women and their challenges will always fill our hearts with gratitude.

New Light Kolkata – MUKTI Project, an empowerment-income generation health project funded by Village Volunteers with technical support from Aakar Innovations‬.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to support vulnerable girls by buying pads from a woman’s run program.
  • Set up a monthly subscription to buy pads from the pad manufacturers for at-risk girls and support the employment of women.
  • Volunteer 
Girls Supplied
with Pads
Perspective on how much
your support means to vulnerable
girls and women 
$12.00 1 Provide Monthly Supplies for 1 girl in need and support women’s employment
$24.00 2 Provide Monthly Supplies for 2 girls in need and support women’s employment
$48.00 4 Provide Monthly Supplies for 4 girls in need and support women’s employment
$96.00 8 Provide Monthly Supplies for 4 girls in need and support women’s employment.

The Need


All over the world, girls face unthinkable challenges when they begin menstruation.   Girls without access to low cost, convenient and reliable sanitary pads must resort to less effective solutions that often leak such leaves, unsanitary scraps of cloth, husk ash, and sand. Most young women lack privacy to be able to wash and dry reusable cloth pads. Without access to clean water, dangerous bacteria can grow on cloth pads and menstrual cups. Imported pads are plastic, difficult to dispose of and expensive.

Without access to hygiene products girls can miss up to 50 days of school per year, causing them to fall behind in class and be ill-prepared for national exams that would have given them a chance to receive an education. Other barriers to education include the disempowerment that comes from menstruation. Inconvenience and taboos, social marginalization and low self esteem result because of lack of awareness around menstrual health. After missing large amounts of school, girls are rarely eligible for scholarships and are often unable to attend secondary schools.

Access to education can significantly change the course of a girl’s life. It is estimated that when a girl receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children, giving her the opportunity to reach her full potential. Additional schooling also provides life-saving public health education, such as HIV/AIDS prevention.

Public Health & Environmental Implications:

The use of non-hygienic, alternative options for sanitary pads for women and girls can lead to health issues such as pelvic infections, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract diseases, increased risk of HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, and maternal death may result due to poor menstrual hygiene.


Water hyacinth is one of the fastest growing, invasive plants on the planet. This non-native species grows rapidly limiting access to valuable community water sources and becomes optimal breeding conditions for vectors that spread illnesses such as malaria, encephalitis, bilharziasis, gastro-intestinal disorders, and schistosomiasis.

The proliferation of water hyacinth threatens biodiversity and destroys native plants, fish and other species by depleting natural nutrients and deoxygenating the water. Water hyacinth speeds water evaporation, therefore, shrinking sources of fresh water at an incredibly rapid rate. It is estimated that the flow of the Nile has been reduced by 10% as a result of the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria.

The Approach



The production of a locally manufactured pad made from water hyacinth and other local agricultural waste will use an invasive species to sustain low to medium skilled income-generating jobs in communities with low opportunities for employment.


Marketing and educational training and resources are provided to the women’s cooperatives to equip the women in educating their peers in the community on how to break social stigmas and how to alleviate menstrual management difficulties.
girl brick - cora


Collaborative endeavor:

  • Village Volunteers (VV), a US 501(C)3 nonprofit organization
  • Scandinavian Industrial Design Engineer Group 0 Jani-Pad
  • Aakar Innovations, a social entrepreneurial manufacturing company from India
  • New Light India, a community based NGO supporting sex-trafficked women in India, sheltering, educating and assisting their children, as well as advocacy for abuse against women.

women using pad machine for EWP   The project will train vulnerable women in the creation of a social enterprise that manufactures low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads. The project will be owned and operated by a women’s cooperative. The sanitary pad will be sold and distributed through local women’s groups, schools, hospitals, clinics, NGOs, and governmental organizations. Distribution will include educational outreach to tackle the stigma surrounding women and menstruation.     kenya-school-girls










 Kenyan girls experience similar challenges with gaining an education once menstruation  begins. Village Volunteers has many partners in Kenya that will be able to set up production once the model in India has been successful. The same model used in India, but adapted for Kenya, will be implemented where the initial research and development started. The Scandinavian team developed the first prototype, the Jani-Pad prototype during two research trips to Kenya.


 Our Collaborators

                                                 JoniAakar-Logo                                             NewLightlogo