Jesselina and Shubhangi started Pad2Go once they returned to their native Nepal after completing their studies in India. They have studies in Civil Engineering and Law behind them, and when they met up in Kathmandu they realised that they share a very clear vision for what they can do for women’s empowerment in their country.
This is when Pad2Go was born. They are very aware that menstrual health is still a taboo subject in Nepal, and this often leads to women being shut out of education and work opportunities, also because the stigmatisation and lack of information is often reproduced within families, further strengthening the patriarchy in its current form. Having spent time in India and seen the prevalent use of vending machines from which you can buy menstrual products, they thought this could be a great solution for quickly expanding access to sanitary pads across Nepal. Vending machines aren’t very widespread, which was both good and bad for Jesselina and Shubhangi. They had to introduce a completely new idea and create the market themselves. Luckily the government and various NGOs have been working very broadly on the topic of menstrual health, and so they could use these networks to spread their message and ideas.
The vending machines are the revenue making side of the business. In urban areas, companies, schools or other organisations such as cinemas purchase and install them in their spaces. In more rural areas, if the school (for example) cannot afford one, then they get paired up with a donor organisation that helps with the purchase. At the moment, there are 110 machines around Nepal, in six out of the seven Nepalese provinces, and each machine serves around 200 women.
The social impact side of Pad2Go is that 10% of the profit from each machine and 100% of the profits from the sanitary pads go towards the building of toilets. Jesselina and Shubhangi talked about how period poverty is not just about access to sanitary products, but it’s also about being in a supportive environment. Installing toilets in rural areas as well as proper disposal units for pads can make a huge difference, and discourages the girls from missing school when they are on their periods, which unfortunately happens far too often.
Additionally, the Pad2Go team run workshops on destigmatising menstruation, which involves both the girls and boys in schools, as well as both male and female teachers and administrators. They know that the taboos are different across the different Nepalese provinces, and between the urban and rural areas, and so they tailor it to each place they go. Additionally, they insist on including boys and the male teachers as they know that the chain of reproducing these taboos also lies with their understanding of menstruation and its social impact on women in their lives.
As neither Jesselina nor Shubhangi have a background in business, they’re finding that the Y&Y Fellowship is giving them the catch-up lessons they desperately needed. They have found that their pace of working can now be a lot faster, as their mentors are helping them with generating new revenue streams, and with setting up a five-year plan for the business. They’ve also found being part of the Y&Y community very inspiring – particularly in this time of the pandemic. Being in contact with other young people who are facing similar challengers and have had similar experiences, has been something that has kept them going despite the setbacks of this difficult year. Having said that, they did launch a social media campaign that managed to raise enough money for 1,500 pads that were sent to migrant workers stuck at the border during the lockdown – they were lacking in basic provisions, and the Nepalese government had classified sanitary products as luxury items, so access was even more reduced than usual. Even in difficult moments, Jesselina and Shubhangi are always thinking about the destigmatisation of menstruation, and are finding innovative and impressive ways of fighting period poverty.